The Rise of the Visual Social Media Era

An article today on Fast Company caught our eye. It could not have more eloquently positioned the rhyme and reason for iCharts’ role in the larger publishing industry. And the rapid shift to use of visualizations to create and share stories.

Simply put - consumers, the voice of the people - engage at a more rapid pace with visual content. We saw a similar shift when online video became a more accessible medium for publishers and everyday consumers. The same is now happening with photos, infographics and charts.

The fundamental value-add of including photos, videos or data-driven charts versus a long-form, text-only article hasn’t changed much over the years. These elements have, and always will, improve reader engagement.

But what has changed, and is visibly seen in research and consumer feedback, is that we - the people - are much more apt to discuss something with our social peers that is uber visual and in a format that’s easily distributed and consumed by a scanning, A.D.D. society.

A few snippets from the post for your reading pleasure:

“Pictures have…become a short form way of communicating lots of information quickly and succinctly….The need for publishers to get to the point quicker than ever came about as humans became more pressed for time and content became more infinite. For publishers, it was evolve or risk losing their audience, and the only thing shorter than a tweet or post is a picture.”

The “trend toward the visual is…influenced by the shifting habits of technology users. As more people engage with social media via smartphones…”

“A 2012 study by ROI Research found that when users engage with friends on social media sites, it’s the pictures they took that are enjoyed the most. Forty-four percent of respondents are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media. Pictures have become one of our default modes of sorting and understanding the vast amounts of information we’re exposed to every day.”

How will you embrace this trend? 

Why, When to Chart


 

Charts are either loved or hated.  Loved…for their ability to capture and create stand-alone stories. Hated… for the complexity and time and it takes to move from data collection > story creation > distribution. iCharts is here to help.

Why Chart?

Charts aren’t just a quick way to share dense information; they are images that convey a bigger storyline, a 101 for captivating communications. As Peter Guber argues, “Humans simply aren’t moved to action by ‘data dumps,’ dense PowerPoint slides, or spreadsheets packed with figures. People are moved by emotion. The best way to emotionally connect other people to our agenda begins with ‘Once upon a time…’ “.

When to Chart?

The Obvious
When you have data to drive a story.

The (Less) Obvious
When you have small or big datasets (e.g. top 10 lists vs. aggregated survey results of a recent poll) to share on social networks. Both use cases, regardless of data depth, have valuable factoid pass-along power when combined with strong visualizations.

The Upside?
Short-term, additive audience reach. Long-term, charts tweeted or shared in a social context get indexed on search engines Get your charting on!

Want to become a data partner to share your stories for FREE? Please contact us.

So You Don’t Have Data? You Can Still iChart.

Information and Inspiration for Creating InfoCharts

You have your hands on a few factoids from a hot press release or Mashable article. Can you chart it? You sure can. iCharts, while not a full-scale info graphics tool, does allow you to create mini infographics called InfoCharts. InfoCharts provide the flexibility for you to:

  • Create great looking charts without real datasets (e.g. Excel tabulations, survey response data)
  • Add awesome images and branding (Platinum plan only)
  • Showcase and share interesting statistics in an engaging format on a blog, ebook, website or social network without design expertise
Want to see InfoCharts in action? Here’s an example from our Pinterest board.

How do you get started?

Prepare to build your story with a mix of data, facts and design.

Plan - Pool together the facts (data points) that you want to include. Also collect images that you may need.
Create  - Import your images and copy/paste your  data points and any additional copy commentary into iCharts. Arrange and customize the elements as you see fit.
Share - Publish your chart to your website or blog or share it on your social networks.

Want to start creating InfoCharts for free? Sign-up here for your FREE, ALL-ACCESS 30-DAY TRIAL

Branding Charts With Platinum Powers

Tips on using iCharts’ Platinum features to protect and extend your brand.

iCharts has made it so that everything that you tailor behind the scenes promotes your brand and optimizes your SEO (learn how). With the powers of Platinum in your hands, you want to push your brand even further. You have your logo, corporate colors and data in hand… but how do you bring it all together in a way that means business?

Use logos and images, but only in a way that respects your data.

At the Platinum level, you have unlimited access to image uploads. The temptation to use the largest version of your logo and place it front and center or to use as many flashy images as possible is undeniably palpable. But try to keep your excitement at bay and channel it wisely. The focus of the chart should be on the data. Images, logos and their placements should very gently set the stage so that your data can shine.

Accent charts with your logo.

Logos should quietly frame your chart. Placing your logo in the middle of your chart, for example, certainly draws attention to your logo but distracts the viewer from the information you’re presenting. Having a clean space around your data implies that meaningful insights are not only important to your brand, but define your brand.

  • Ensure logos are not any larger than one-fifth or one-fourth of the visual width of your chart. (e.g. If your chart is 500 px in width, then your logo’s width should not be more than 100 px or 125 px in width.)
  • Place logos in one of the four corners (top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right). Give about 30 px of space around the logo so it is not cramped against the edges.

Be choosy with the images you use.

If you are taking it upon yourself to find the perfect image, you will soon find out that there are almost too many to wade through. The ones that will work out the best will fulfill two requirements:

  • Complementing the storyline and personality of your brand.
  • If resting in the background, the image will create open space for your chart while also drawing attention to what matters most to your readers.

Color MatchYour company may have a well-defined corporate brand color scheme. Use that palette to dictate your data series colors. You can easily copy and paste the HEX and RGB codes in the studio if you have access to them. If you don’t, take a your logo or a screenshot of your company website and upload it to any of the following tools that will analyze the image for the most commonly used colors and yield those codes for your use:

Getting the Gold on ChartBooks

Tips on how to size charts for the perfect ChartBook.

ChartBooks  - available to iCharts Gold and Platinum plan users - are a great way to create stories with charts through an online, interactive presentation. What’s that? You’ve never seen one before?

Take a look here to flip through one. Just bear in mind that this one is more richly formatted and branded, thanks to the Platinum user benefits. But here’s a taste for  how it all comes together.

Below are a few guidelines on how to size up your charts to make the most of your data (bite-size) stories.

The Basics

Charts can be arranged into a grid-like composition on each page. When you create or edit a page, determine the number of columns each page will have. Choosing to have two columns for a page that will contain four charts, for example, will arrange the first two charts into the first row, and the second set of two will be in the  second row. If you have decided to have a three-column spread, then only the last chart will be bumped into the second row. Or, if you choose to have a one-column spread, then your four charts will never be on the same row; viewers will use the vertical scrollbar in order to view the remaining charts.

The key to coordinating a clean ChartBook page is sizing; it quickly becomes a width and height game.

Heights

Here are a few general things to consider when determining the heights:

  • The sharpest ChartBooks have charts whose heights are equal.
  • Because the height of the chart is more or less determined by your data and the amount of extra information you wish to add (comments, annotations), play around with how much content you will more or less have to determine a go-to height for the charts.
  • If keeping the entire chart or first row of charts within the field of view is important to you, then try to keep your charts under 500 px in height.

Widths

Widths can be tricky to wrap your head around if you intend to have a collection of pages with differing column arrangements. Aim to have charts of equal widths.

But which width should you decide on? Well, you can have charts at any width of your choice, up to a certain point. Here is simple table of the maximum widths your chart can have per your column selection to guide you as you organize your charting process:

ChartBook Width Guide

*While it is absolutely possible to create layouts with 5 or more columns of charts to a page, the widths you would need to make your page orderly would render your charts almost impossibly too narrow to make the data legible.

We trust these quick pointers will get you well on your way to building your first of many Chartbooks.

Author Note:
ChartBooks are currently only shareable between iCharts users. We are working hard to release the option to publish unique web-based URLs to share publicly, as well.

Basic Doesn’t Have to be Boring

Tips for [Basic Plan] iCharts Users

Just because you might choose the iCharts Basic Plan,  it doesn’t means your charts are subjected to an aesthetic handicap. While you may not be able to upload your own images (see Gold or Platinum), Basic still provides simple tools to create visually appealing charts. With iCharts, free version or not, you still have full control over key ingredients like spacing, font and color to have clean and visually balanced storytelling imagery.

SPACING

  • Perhaps one of most easily overlooked Basic tools is spacing. Poor spacing decisions within charts can be one of the biggest distractions when someone is looking at it. As you begin, mentally plot out where your chart title, text box and chart area will be placed. Also map out an imaginary margin around the entire chart page that will designate where content cannot be placed. Think of it like a fresh document you’re working on with equal margins on all four sides.
  • When you fine-tune the relative positioning of the text boxes, chart titles and the chart area, ensure that the white space between them is equal.

Example:

FONTS

  • Mix and match fonts wisely. Mixing and matching fonts is a subtle way to give a sense of organization to the eye. One font style can set the main points, for example, while another font style can set the supporting points.
  • There are general rules of thumb regarding how many fonts can be used in harmony with one another in the graphic design world, but since you are working in a relatively small space within a chart, I suggest only working with two at a time. Sans serif fonts work wonderfully set against serif fonts, and vice versa. Within iCharts, Georgia and Arial or Georgia and Helvetica are the most balanced combinations.
  • And at the risk of stating the obvious, bold and italic font formatting decisions are extremely useful tools for you to draw attention to specific points, especially when they are used in tandem with color choices that echo a relationship with the chart colors (more on this in the color section below).

Example:

COLOR

Use color to highlight the take-aways of your chart.

  • If there is a single category or multiple categories that you want to call attention to, use a bolder, brighter color to illuminate them from the stack
  • And if you’d like to expand on the categories you’ve singled out, use the same color to emphasize your points within the text - this is a quick, and simple way to make relationships between data and analysis.

Example:

Cannot retrieve chart

So, fear not. If you have a free [Basic] account, you still have an awesome set of tools within your grasp that will take charting from dull stat sharing to creative works of art.

Dipping Your Toe Into iCharts? Four Steps to Getting Started.

Charting isn’t always a straight-forward as it might seem. But we’re here to make it easy with (4) simple steps to get you started.

STEP 1: Load Data.
There are (3) ways for you to load data.

  1. Load from an Excel spreadsheet or connect to a Google Spreadsheet.
  2. Power your charts directly from a database by connecting it with an iCharts API connector. Learn more about setting one up.
  3. Enter data manually. If you don’t have a spreadsheet but have the data on hand, type it in yourself.
STEP 2: Design and Format.
You don’t need to be a graphic designer to make a good, clean, stylish chart. All it takes is one click.
  1. Browse through iCharts’ (15) pre-built design templates for additional background and formatting options.
  2. Apply a template in 1-click. Edit it as often as you like. Explore what can be changed.
  3. Or create your own custom design template to match your brand or style (platinum plan only). Find inspiration on our ChartChannel.


STEP 3: Create and Publish Charts.
Put the final touches on your chart and determine just how private or public you’d like it to be.

  1. Customize! Choose size, color, form factor, images, logo and much more. (Note: Options vary by plan type.)
  2. Add comments to your charts.
  3. Turn on/off interactive features - such as Sliders, Filters and Legends that are automatically generated to your chart/graph by iCharts.
  4. Choose Public or Private as your chart setting. See what the difference is.
  5. Share - via email, embed on your blog/website, share with another iChart’s user (account: account sharing) or post on your favorite social network.


STEP 4: Create a ChartBook.
Need cool reports with charts? Create a ChartBook.

  1. Include as many pages as you like.
  2. Drag and drop (unlimited) interactive charts into your ChartBook
  3. Rearrange charts on the fly with 1-click
  4. Add text-only charts into your ChartBook for additional context
  5. Share your ChartBook with other iChart’s users.
Need more information? Check out our FAQs section. Or download our new User Guide.
Not an iCharts user yet? Sign-up today for free.