Infographics: those visual, easy to digest pieces of graphic content that you’ve found all over the web are more popular than ever. Usually seen in a simple JPG or PNG format, they can be also animated or interactive but are very often static, meaning users must pinch the screen to view them on certain types of devices. So how do they perform in a modern digital strategy?
The digital world is now mobile-first, meaning content must be optimized for mobile viewing on any device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or desktop. Websites must ensure that their content is viewable, or search engines will start to rank them below their mobile-friendly competitors.
How do infographics perform? The argument for a mobile-first digital strategy is obvious; people have been moving away from their desktops for years, and the trend is steadily increasing. Mobile viewing of web content has now surged ahead of desktop, in fact, 70% of internet use is now on a mobile device. A recent consumption forecast suggested that the use of a desktop for internet users fell by almost 16% this year.
This trend is happening all over the world. For example, the use of devices other than desktops has risen by 63% in China, with internet users hitting the 620 million mark at the end of last year. Mobile-first is big business, and an essential part of any contemporary media strategy. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it will fall behind.
In digital landscapes, there is also an inherent need to predict future trends in the use of products and websites, so a mobile-first strategy has been a keystone metric for some time now. People are on the move due to the many devices available now and they want their information served wherever they go.
So how does this play out for different types of content - visual, written, video, graphic (including infographics) - and what does “optimized for mobile” really mean? There are several terms being now being used, including mobile friendly, mobile optimized and responsive design. These all share similar elements but are distinct from each other. As web design advances, responsive design has emerged as the dominant way of presenting a website that is entirely flexible, regardless of what device you are using.
Instead of just detecting a specific browser type of device, a responsive design will automatically change its parameters to match the screen size available. This is done with automatic reformatting of content without the user having to do anything.
The “problem” when it comes infographics is that often they render as images do; they will be automatically resized with a responsive website design meaning that text and images may be too small to be read when viewed on a small screen such as a smartphone. But is this really an issue?
Infographics: A Brief History
infographic source: Copypress.
The official definition from Newsom and Haynes in Public Relations Writing: Form and Style, is that infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly - but they’re hardly a new thing.
Visual representations of concepts have been around for literally centuries. Infographics have now exploded in popularity because of graphic design and the ease of creating them en masse due to highly accessible web tools and programs such as Canva and Pictochart. They are a great fit for the web too, where users want to learn information in easily digestible chunks.
“Simply put, our brains love visual information. Infographics can make your marketing and advertising stand out in the crowded world of visual content,” says Randy Krum of InfoNewt, a company that specialises in their creation. “You want your communication to be clear and concise. This is where infographics come in.”
Infographics can now be made using a variety of different media using various software tools such as HTML5 and CSS3 but were originally popularly done in programs like Adobe. They are now often rendered as JPG or PNG format, so that they can be easily circulated on various types of devices.
The most common type of infographic you’ll see is the static infographic. It renders as an image on your device, like a photograph. You will usually see them resize to the screen size of your device, as with images, and the URL and HTML code will remain the same, no matter the device. In most cases, you may have to pinch the screen to zoom in on the information, as usually infographics can be text or image-heavy.
For the last couple of years, we have also seen the emergence of interactive infographics, animated infographics and video infographics as well. The most important thing about infographics is that they are popular. Check out this Google chart of how the word ‘infographic’ is trending on an increasing scale.
Mobile-First Google Algorithm UpdatesGoogle constantly updates its algorithm to make sure that web users find the most relevant content they can via their searching. In a rare case in 2015, for the first time, Google actually announced an algorithm update to give webmasters time to update their sites. Some bloggers nicknamed it “Mobilegeddon”.
The update that occurred on April 21st, 2015 meant that any websites that were not mobile-friendly would be penalised. This means that their domain authority was probably affected, pushing them lower on organic search results. Google wanted to send a clear message to the web: think mobile-first with all your content, or suffer the rankings drops.
So, do infographics work on mobile? “Infographics have long been a content marketers staple, but let’s face it, any content that requires viewers to pinch, zoom, and pan is going to turn people off,” explains designer Jess Bachman. “We simply cannot abandon mobile users if we want our content to have a maximum impact.”
The solution is to retro-fit infographics for a mobile audience. The most commonly used format for infographics is less than 800 pixels in width. If infographics are larger than this, they might be automatically shrunk by publishing platforms. When your audience must “navigate” image-based content, this can be frustrating for them, and your UX (user experience) is compromised.
World’s “First” Mobile-First infographicRecently, a company came up with what it was calling “the world’s first mobile-first infographic”. It’s animated, responsive and can be viewed on any platform. “It’s mobile-first, not mobile-only” according to the site.
In truth, there have been interactive, animated and video-based infographics floating around the web for the last couple of years but the popularity of the static infographic is still so prevalent as they are usually simpler and cheaper to produce, and still get websites great engagement results.
Should Infographics Still Be Part of Your Digital Strategy?According to a recent social media report, after blogging, visuals were ranked as the most important content type, ahead of videos by 34% of marketers. Graphics when combined with text make content more engaging and assist your audience to retain the information too.
Infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than other types of content. They are attention grabbing and memorable and in many cases, can impart data in a better, more vivid way.
If we lived in an ideal world, infographics would render perfectly on our 24 inch monitors and our four-inch smartphone screens but the content inside an image is not responsive so this isn’t possible with a static image infographic. Increasingly, designers are coming up with animated infographics such as this beautiful rendering of 42 North American butterflies.
This butterfly animated infographic can be read easily on desktop but when resized to mobile you might find it difficult to read the text below the butterflies if your vision isn’t 20/20. Design company Lemony has come up with a potential solution with responsive infographic design, pointing out that there are now more than 230 available screen sizes – imagine having to design for them all!
Their current designs mean that users don’t have to pinch the screen or zoom in and out, and they are quick to load and SEO friendly. Remember that as static infographics are just images they cannot be “read” by search engine results pages (SERPs), so it’s important to upload them with a 300-word introduction as well as ensuring all metadata is filled in correctly “behind” the image.
Performance of Infographics is Still Very StrongAudiences still love infographics and websites still link to them. As of late 2016, the word “infographic” was searched around 301,000 times per month, according to Google Analytics. They are heavily used in B2B marketing per a recent content marketing report and use of them was up from 51% to 62% last year.
They might be the best way to present your information, or to break up or visualize information on your site that’s already popular. They can be timelines, text-heavy, image heavy, processes or statistics. Depending on the needs of your content, users and websites there may be many solutions to how you use infographics. Interactive designs are now almost more like mini-websites, but of course the more complex something is, the more costly and time consuming it is to produce.
If you haven’t yet considered trying infographics as a format, try this as part of your strategy for 2017. Find a skilled designer online, map out a visual and text version of your “story” or “product” and imagine how your audience would want this explained. A great graphic designer should assist you with bringing your concept to life.
Infographics should still be a valuable part of your digital strategy and with new technologies emerging all the time to solve the mobile-first issue with static images, there’s never been a better time to explore new solutions for your website.
Yvette McKenzie is the content strategist at Open Colleges. She writes about digital technology, content marketing and new information processes. She has worked in the Australian broadcast media industry for over ten years and now heads up the SEO content strategy for Australia’s largest online educator.