Infographics are very popular in the current online environment. They quench the visual appetite of digital natives and enthusiasts while also giving chunks of relevant information presented in a way that makes it easy to understand and remember.
I thought about looking up some of the current numbers on infographics and the benefits of using them in posts and learning materials and, alas!, I have come across this infographic:
Appealing as the above information might seem, it isn’t reason enough to start turning your entire online course into a series of infographics. There is a time and a place for them, and moderation is, as always, advised. Here are some tips on when and how to use these powerful visual tools to enhance your design.
When to use infographics
Use infographics when they may actually help your course. As a rule, this happens when you have complex information that would benefit from presentation in a more accessible form. There are several instances when this is the case:
- When you want to connect various concepts and make the relationship between them obvious. Generally, concepts are more difficult to grasp because they are cognitive constructs. You can’t really draw a picture of the growth of revenue, for example. In these instances, it’s good to put all the connected concepts in an infographic so that they make sense together. It’s especially efficient when you are talking about economic or financial terms – trying to show the relationship between store footfall and increased revenue, for one.
- When you are looking to compare and contrast data. The human brain has an easier time drawing parallels when information is presented in this way – that is why so much advertising and product reviews rely on this sort of visual representation of various features, aspects, or functions. The potential customer can easily see how a certain product or service is superior to other similar ones on the market. When it comes to learning, comparison works as a highly effective mnemonic mechanism.
- When you want to tell a story. Infographics can ‘show’ the unfolding of a storyline over time. Everything from the life of an influential person, the start and growth of a business, a customer journey, or the various stages of a marketing endeavor can be depicted in the right, easy to remember, order. An infographic can easily illustrate the relationship between events across time.
- When you need to efficiently explain complex processes. In this case, infographics allow you to break down the complex processes into their simpler components and represent these plainly and sequentially for easy understanding. When it comes to technical subjects, like the construction of an engine or the assembly of a production unit, a visual, sequential representation works very well. The same goes for creative processes like writing a novel, a grant request, or an online course.
When to avoid the use of infographics
Don’t use infographics when they do nothing but clutter your course design and lead to cognitive overload. Before you start designing one, think if including an infographic is really necessary, or a simple graph will do the job just as well. Learners need to understand the information easier, not be dazzled by your design mastery at every step.
Also, when you have separate data or facts that don’t really connect, it’s futile to pretend they do by putting them all together in an infographic. It will just seem odd and out of place.
The case is the same when you want to tell a simple, linear story. Language is complex enough to allow you to create tension and evoke emotion, not to mention that you appeal to the learner’s imagination
The bottom line is, don’t go about spreading infographics everywhere just because they look cool. Use them wisely and make effective ones.
More tips on how to use infographics
The first step after deciding that your online course could be better with an infographic is to choose the right type:
- Statistical infographics
- Informational infographics
- Timeline infographics
- Process infographics
- Geographic infographics
- Comparison infographics
- Hierarchical infographics
- List infographics
- Resume infographics
Once you have figured out which format works best for your needs, make sure you keep the text to a minimum and rely on the visuals to carry out the message.
Since you want to make an impact, it’s important to build upon the existing examples and templates and innovate to showcase your unique vision. However, don’t clutter your design on your quest for creativity – choose the most relevant pieces of information and make sure they stand out.
The modern learner has an appetite for all things visual. Content needs to be easy to grasp and digest, otherwise it is likely to get overlooked. Infographics, if used correctly, can increase both the appeal and retention rates of your online course.
Raluca Cristescu has over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.