Ginny Mies shares how telling your data visually is now easier than ever with the help of web-based infographic tools. She recently had to create an infographic for a project. Having very basic design skills, she was looking for something intuitive and easy to learn that could create an attractive final product. After surveying many of the programs out there, she found a few that meet these requirements. Ginny writes:
Tools for Creating Infographics, Charts, and Diagrams
Making a useful, shareable infographic or chart takes some planning. For big projects or large sets of data, you might want to consult with a professional designer or somebody on staff with design skills. But if you're simply looking to create a polished chart, timeline, or other visualization, you can certainly accomplish it with one of the following tools:
- BEST for Beginners: With Easel.ly, you can either start from scratch with a blank template or use one of the 15 "vhemes" (that's visual themes). The vhemes can be tweaked and changed with Easel.ly's simple web-based editor. I preferred starting from scratch and using Easel.ly's library of shapes, images, and fonts to create my infographic.
- Infogr.am is my tool of choice when it comes to making visually-appealing charts. With the chart tool, you can import data from Microsoft Office Excel files or spreadsheets in CSV format. The tool will then automatically turn your data into a stylish, embeddable chart. You can pick from a variety of chart formats, such as table, pictoral, bubble, pie, and so on. You can also create infographics with Infogr.am, but I found it pretty limited as you only have a few templates to choose from.
- Piktochart is a versatile infographic app that lets you pick a theme, add your data, tweak it, and then save it in a variety of formats. The free version gives you three basic themes, a few customization options, and five slots for image uploads. There's also a monthly "pro" pricing plan that provides over 100 themes, more customization options, and isn't watermarked with Piktochart's logo. Piktochart doesn't require a contract or any sign-up fees so your organization can give Piktochart's professional package a whirl for a few months to test it out.
- Gliffy can be used to create professional-looking timelines, flow charts, Venn diagrams, and more. You can pick from a variety of shapes, symbols, lines, and other graphics to build your desired infographic. Like Piktochart, Gliffy has a variety of price plans, including a free plan. The free plan includes 2MB of online storage (for hosting your graphics), supports image export, and offers a library of shapes and symbols.
More Infographic Tips and Resources
Here are a few more tips and resources on creating successful infographics:
- Before putting time and resources into an infographic, ensure that your data can be presented visually. Mashable advises sketching out a flowchart or a diagram on a physical piece of paper before arming up with a graphic design program or one of these online tools.
- Additionally, before shelling out money for a program or professional designer, determine whether an infographic is the best medium for presenting your data. Urs Gattiker, Chief Technology Officer of ComMetrics, wrote in a blog post, "The question is, can viewers see the overall shape of the data more easily and quickly with infographics than any other visual aid?" If not, you might need to rethink whether an infographic is the right medium for presenting your information.
- Community Organizer 2.0 offers tips specifically aimed at nonprofits looking to utilize infographics.
- The Wild Apricot blog compiled a list of resources for creating interesting infographics.
- Find more articles and how-tos on web, multimedia, and design on TechSoup Asia.
Has your organization delved into the world of infographics? Did you use a web tool or consult with a professional designer? Share your experience, thoughts, or questions in the comments.
Image: Infographic example from Easel.ly.