Once a fun and useful way of presenting data in an easy-to-digest format, infographics have been overused to the point that their reputation is close to ruin.

And yet the truth is that they are still a brilliant way of gaining shares and, more importantly, links back to your site. Our regular infographic roundup remains one of the most consistently popular posts each week.

The trick is to avoid churning out an ugly, unreadable infographic just for some cheap exposure, and concentrate on creating something genuinely valuable for a specific audience. We’ve previously blogged five free online tools that can help with this process.

At Distilled’s LinkLove conference infographic designer Claire Stokoe gave a talk on how to create the perfect infographic, and it turns out that the fundamentals aren’t that difficult. However getting it right takes a bit more effort.

The five basic steps are:

  • Find some data. Infographics require useful, accurate data, so you need to search online to find it.
  • Sort the data. Check through the data to make sure that it’s high quality and relevant to your topic.
  • Arrange the data. Use the data to create a narrative.
  • Present the data. You need to create a readable infographic that guides people through the data.
  • Share the data. Get the infographic out there so people start linking back to your client’s site.

Stokoe argued that this isn’t a new phenomenon – in fact Florence Nightingale used an infographic way back in 1858 to show how many soldiers were dying from preventable diseases.

Unfortunately not all SEOs have intentions as pure as Ms Nightingale’s, but here’s Stokoe’s process for creating the perfect infographic.

It’s fairly straightforward, however some stages need more care and attention than others. Firstly, setting the goals based on what you or your client needs is extremely important. 

Ask what does your client need to achieve? Not what they want, but what they actually need. Traffic? Links? Brand awareness? Or all of the above? 

Stokoe said this will help define the topic so you can search online for some relevant data.

Planning the narrative is equally important, as all too often infographics are just a jumble of unreadable data. You need to spend time planning how you will guide the reader through all the data you’ve collected.

Thirdly, you need to make sure you test the final infographic on somebody that wasn’t involved in the design process. If Nigel from accounts can’t comprehend the data, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

Good vs. bad examples

Stokoe finished her talk with several examples of good versus bad practice in infographic design. The full list can be viewed on her slideshare presentation, however here are a couple of the examples.

Firstly, the header needs to grab the reader and explain exactly what is contained within the infographic, so avoid vague titles. 

It’s also important to be creative with the design, while remembering that the data needs to be easy to digest.

Don’t simply buy in all your images from Shutterstock and create a generic infographic – embrace originality.

Finally, spend a bit of time finding the perfect font. Ideally you want one that gives a feel for the subject matter.

So for example, if it’s an infographic about Arnie try to find a Terminator or Predator style font.