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We all love a good infographic. There’s just something about their brightly coloured illustrative aesthetic and the promise of instant revelation that turns them into clickbait.

But are they an overrated novelty? Are they ringing the death knell for longer pieces of content, a doomsday sign of our ever-decreasing attention spans? Or, when done right, do they actually offer value – for audiences and content creators?

We’d go for the latter. And so, it seems, would others.

According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 B2C benchmarking report, infographic usage is up. More and more B2C marketers are using them (62 per cent this year, up from 45 per cent last year), making infographics the most rapidly increasing content marketing tactic. And they seem to be doing something right, given 63 per cent rate them as effective (an increase from 42 per cent the previous year).

And this may be one reason why – sites using infographics get 12 per cent more traffic than those that don’t.

Get your message across at lightning speed

Think about it this way. The average adult reading speed is 300 words per minute. Visitors to a website decide whether they will leave a page in the first 20 seconds – so they’re generally able to take in a measly 100 words before they hit the back button. However – according to a popular infographic about infographics – your eye can recognise 36,000 visual messages in an hour. That’s ten per second, or 200 in that same 20 seconds you were reading those 100 words.

While we like to think we’re pretty good writers, we’d struggle to fit 200 ideas into 100 words (and we certainly wouldn’t recommend it).

Writing? Just add pictures

According to yet another infographic about infographics, we remember 80 per cent of what we see, but only 20 per cent of what we read. When text is accompanied by visuals, it’s more likely to be understood (imagine trying to assemble a tent with only written instructions).

Symbols and images can be pretty powerful, but infographics almost always use words to connect the ideas they evoke. That’s why, as writers, we also develop the stories behind the infographics. Design agencies often ask us to extract the most important bits of data to get the infographic treatment – revealing the context behind the visual and written messages and bringing it all together with captions and quotes.

You can also apply the same instant gratification principles of infographics to any writing: break up text into small digestible sections with subheadings, distil information to the most important key messages, and use pull-out quotes, dot point lists and tables.

Whether you use words, pictures or both, you’re ultimately aiming for engaging content that gives your audience something of value.

As Ross Crooks wrote for Forbes, “Sound research, interesting information, insightful analysis, timeliness, humor, and emotion – these are the materials that make for great content. The format is far less relevant.”

It’s no accident that the pictures-plus-words combination of the infographic is an engaging, memorable and accessible vehicle for all of those things. If you’re making content in the internet age, you’d better not underestimate them.

Comments

  1. Melanie says:

    Great content on your blog. Though, it seems this blog about words vs pics would be an awesome place to use pics instead of the blog post 🙂 Maybe you could create an infographic or other visual aid regarding the content on your blog… in place of the words… show us what you mean 🙂

    • writers says:

      Hi Melanie – thanks for stopping by and thanks for leaving a comment. We think infographics work best when trying to convey complex information in the form of a story, and we didn’t think this blog warranted it. There was a time when infographics were all the rage, but we’ve noticed markedly fewer infographic briefs coming through our door in the last couple of years. Think we may have reached peak i/g!

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