What’s the secret to creating engaging infographics?
We spoke to PhD fellow Esther Greussing to understand how people respond to infographics in online news.
Infographics are eye-catching. They attract a person’s gaze and increase the interest of an article. Infographics make it possible to communicate information efficiently, but their success depends on why and how they’re executed.
Reuters spoke to Esther Greussing, who is researching user-engagement with online news, to investigate how people respond to infographics and learn best-practice.
We know a lot from the designer’s perspective, but not the way people are using these designs”
Through online surveys, Greussing’s 1200 participants were presented with infographics ranging from slide bars to clickable hotspots. The content stayed the same, but the parameters changed to isolate features and measure their effects.
Give the user guidance and signalling cues
The demand for interactive infographics is rising.
However, sometimes the user doesn’t know how to engage with them.
“Usability studies have found that understanding the way interactivity functions is rather difficult for people,” says Greussing. This is why you’ll notice effective infographics give the audience some guidance: Where should the user click first? Do the buttons have labels or numbers on them?
For instance, The New York Times used an infographic to visualize the shrinking ice on the Arctic sea. The title states: “You’ll see a Trend.” “The audience knows it has to watch out for a trend. They know what to look for.”
Signaling cues are also essential. The infographic in the NYT shows the change immediately. The user doesn’t have to click on a button but has the chance to restart it at the end. Greussing compares these cues to a user manual.
Highlight certain parts which tell the user where to look first. Put numbers on hotspots.
To explain the tragic story of a lost ferry that sank in bad weather earlier this year, Reuters developed an user-friendly infographic, where by simply scrolling down, either the map changes or windows of information appear.
Find out how familiar your audience is with infographics
Do you know if your audience frequently consume infographics? If not, it’s worth finding out. There is a correlation between power-users and understanding how to interact with an infographic.
If the audience does not understand how to engage with the graphic, the content cannot be conveyed. “Another significant factor is users’ high expectations. They demand a direct connection between the text and the infographic. It has to make sense within the story, in both the way the infographic is embedded and where it is placed.”
Pick infographic elements that complement the content you want to deliver.
When I want to show changes, spatial changes, then slide bars are the best. If it is not about change, then it doesn’t make sense to convey the content by using a slide bar.
Clickable hotspots might be better, where I can offer information in different spots, or the user can zoom into the graphic. It depends on the message, I want to convey.”
By using infographics, it is possible to get a message across.
They convey complex and abstract content and make it understandable in a very short time-frame. “Infographics are a useful tool in times like these in which the attention-span shortens and the willingness to spend more time with news decreases.”
They also have to be made suitable for both, desktop and mobile. “It is not possible to just transfer infographics. They have to be adapted to mobile use where users have a touchscreen, while on the computer it is a mouse-based interaction.”
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