5 Questions To Ask Before Creating Interactive Infographics

Interactive infographics (often referred to as “interactives“) are gigantic, majestic, gorgeous, mysterious beasts. Everyone loves them, everyone wants them, but there’s a disconnect: Not everyone knows what to expect from them. And that can be very problematic. Because unlike static projects—which more easily adapt to edits, changes, and tweaks—interactive infographics can prove costly when redirecting, reworking, and reconcepting come into play.

Consider the interactive infographic process like traveling by subway in a new big city. When you look at the map, you ideally assume you’ll move through several linear points to get from start to finish. But like any project, that isn’t always the case. And getting lost along the way with an interactive infographic, can take some serious effort to get back on track. The good news is: Asking yourself just a few sharp questions increases your chances of a smooth ride.

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What offerings take the story beyond static storytelling?

An interactive infographic is a fantastic way to engage your audience. It breaks down complex sets of data into a decidedly fun, informative, and helpful experience by transforming readers into users. But interactivity isn’t always a must for a story. Don’t force an upgrade. By making a narrative unnecessarily busy, your takeaways and calls to action become cluttered and convoluted. (Grade-school plays don’t need CGI; 3D isn’t really necessary for a documentary. A movie that’s already good likely doesn’t need to cast the indefinite wildcard that is Nicolas Cage.) Go with what works; go with what best reaches your audience. And make sure you know why an interactive is the right choice for your story, not just the most exciting.

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Where will the interactive live?

You’d be surprised how often this gets overlooked. When every boss “needs this done yesterday,” getting wrapped up in the many details is so easy, you can forget one of the most important decisions—like forgetting the ring on the day of the wedding. Don’t be that guy. Instead, nail down whether the interactive will dwell in a blog post, on its own dedicated microsite, or somewhere in the wild beyond. This key decision drives how your dedicated team will determine the user interface and user experience. It also brings up new questions: What is the max pixel width and height available? What other content will surround the interactive? Does the site have any limitations as a whole? Who will keep up maintenance? Make this an upfront dialogue, rather than just a last-minute either/or selection.

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Where will the interactive be viewed: desktop, tablet, and/or mobile?

One day, when we have the technology, a question like this won’t exist. You’ll simply tell all your fanciest ideas to the CMO (which will stand for Cyborg Marketing Officer, by then) and out will pop a stylish interactive of totally responsive design, which will be so good it’ll pretty much give you 100% market share. Alas, we aren’t there yet. In the meantime, you must consider how your interactive will be viewed. Designing and developing an interactive for all three platforms is no problem today, but these things have to be known and established from the get-go to avoid timely and costly setbacks. It determines scope, process, and resources. If you initially believe think you’ll just want the interactive to be compatible on desktop, later realizing that “hey, maybe people are using phones to view content” will cost you time and money. Avoid the headache; plan for all possibilities from the start.

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How tech savvy is your audience?

Your audience has good taste (obviously, they’re your audience, after all), but how hip to technology are they? Any answer is fine. None of this will be on the final. But this evaluation will determine how many and what kind of features your interactive should include and showcase. If your target audience consists more of baby boomers who’ve only just wandered away from AOL, don’t give them a user experience crafted for millennial graphic designers who can rank Apple’s best and worst products in less than 20 seconds. You’ll just overwhelm and confuse your audience. Likewise, an overly simplistic experience for users who handle complex tech on the regular will be bored and click away. Know your audience; it’s invaluable.

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How will the interactive reach your audience?

There’s actually a secret question that comes before this: Is your audience internal or external?

This answer will send you down one of two roads. If internal, the interactive is likely for a specific event, campaign, or launch. It’s still good to double-check, in case there’s any doubt, but outreach here would typically be in the form of an announcement, presentation, or some kind of communication (email, newsletter, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, telepathy, those airport flag things, etc.). If external-facing, however, many new questions present themselves. Will you include share buttons? Are you trying to expand your audience using this interactive? If so, will you be relying on SEO, PR efforts, or sheer willful hope? Is someone assigned to this interactive’s outreach? Just because your interactive’s somewhere in the ether doesn’t mean people can easily find it. So, be sure to strategize just how you’ll spread the word about your great new interactive design.

Concepting, designing, building, and launching an interactive can sometimes feel like wandering a big maze, but we hope this helps you successfully make your way through the labyrinth (and we hear listening to a little David Bowie along the way has been know to help, too, on occasion). These are good questions to ask, but they aren’t the only ones. The more answers you lay out from the start, the easier the course will be through the end. A strong beginning is often a perfect end.

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