A Resource For Information Visualisation & Infographics

Recently there has been an influx of infographics being used online to gain traffic and links. I love infographics. Therefore I’ve compiled this post to explain what they are and give you some inspiration for creating your own infographics and information visualisation.

Why Do You Care About Infographics?

Information visualisation is playing an important role on the web. Users have the attention spans of goldfish. Goldfish on crack. Mmm crack. Where was I again? Oh yeah, infographics are very good at driving traffic and links. Check out the state of the internet that Focus produced recently:
I’d say I’m 10% expert, 12% snarky.

This did very well, appearing more or less everywhere on the internet:

Everyone loves the internet. Fact.
Not only did this get lots of traffic and exposure, it also gained a large number of links from places such as Mashable.

It’s not just bloggers getting on board with information visualisation, however. I recently went to a conference where Russell Smith, head of editorial development for the BBC News website, talked about database journalism. He directed me to the following resource page of infographics and visualisations from BBC News.

On that page you can view all kinds of visualisations, such as this tool for plotting where the Premier League’s players come from:

Where Liverpool players came from in 1989
Russell told me infographics are vital to the BBC news website’s story telling - I love the term Database Journalism:
The BBC has a specialist team of developers, designers and journalists producing innovative multimedia storytelling on major stories and events with an increasing focus on database journalism.
Russell Smith - Head of Editorial Development, BBC News

Examples Of Great Infographics

There are many many great examples of infographics, i’ve included a few of my favourites here along with some unusual ones and some more resources for finding more. If you’re not inspired after reading through these then I don’t know what will inspire you!

The Guardian Zeitgeist

The Guardian recently launched a zeitgeist feature which allows you to easily glance at the news and see which categories and headlines in one place:

Colours, boxes, Charlie Brooker - what’s not to like?
Photographers Rights In The UK

This one is a little left-field and takes a different approach to data visualisation, it’s not numbers but laws that are being demonstrated in the photographers rights in the UK:

Warning: will not save you if you are also a terrorist
I strongly recommend checking out anything at all from informationisbeautiful.

Visualise The Music You Listen To

A step up from visualisation of data is letting users visualise their own data - HacKey is a great Last.fm app that lets you visualise the key of all the music you listen to:

My favourite chord is G major. Who knew?
Spotting a Hidden Handgun

Spotting a hidden handgun is just a small fraction of the amazing graphical reporting powers of Megan Jaegerman:

Run, gun-man, run!
Poor Sweden

I particularly like this piece about The Petabyte Age (designed by column five media), partly because it’s driven from data which is readily available and partly because it’s so similar to a piece of linkbait we did many years ago:

Either Sweden doesn’t have electricity or lolcats use a lot of energy.
OK Cupid, More Than OK Infographics

Towards the back-end of 2009 OK Cupid started blogging about the data that they have. In an excellent way. They clearly ‘get’ what it takes to do linkbait and have a great combination of visualisation along with easily digestibale pull-quotes. I highly recommend that you check out their blog for a great example of how to get this right.

I just realised my twitter profile pic shows off my abs... What does that say about me?
Other Collections of Information Visualistion

Others have been over some of this territory:

Data Sources

Of course, if you’re going to go about visualising information then you need some information to start with! One of the best places to look for data is your own site and your own users. OK Cupid do this perfectly as mentioned above and often this is the best data to use since no one else has access to this kind of information. If you don’t have access to this or if you’re looking for other data sources to mash up (combining two sets of data is always funky!) then check out these sources:

APIs

If you don’t use your own, then use someone else’s. APIs are designed to allow you to query other people’s information and pull out the data you need. I like to think of the following 4 step process:

  1. Find an API
  2. Pull API data into pie charts
  3. ?????
  4. Profit
There are literally thousands of APIs out there but here’s a few to get you started:
ProgrammableWeb is THE place online for APIs
YQL

I’m not really a developer but I’m still excited by what services like Yahoo’s YQL make possible. Allowing you to mash up all kinds of API’s as well as enabling you to get data from sites which don’t have APIs is pretty cool. Gotta Love Bacon was built using PHP and YQL, you can read more about that here: How We Built GottaLoveBacon.com Using Twitter, PHP And YQL

This doesn’t quite work as YQL code, but it’s not far off!
Data.gov.uk

This is a recently launched website by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the UK government to provide open access to all kinds of public information so that people can make mashups, do analysis etc. It’s still in beta at the moment but already has quite a buzz around it. Check out www.data.gov.uk for all your UK data goodness.

They’re more data guys than design guys.....

Creating Visualisation Without Design Skills

One of the challenges to creating good infographics and information visualisation however is actually designing the data. There are a few good tools that will let you make your own pretty graphs and charts (Google Docs I’m looking at you) but one tool I noticed recently is Tableau Public. It’s not quite released yet but when it does (in the next week or so I’m informed) it will let anyone use Tableau’s services to visualise data quickly and easily and embed data within blog posts.
Despite the name, it’s not quite public yet...
You can see a few examples of this already in the wild and it’s pretty neat! If you have any other great examples of infographics or information visualisation please share them in the comments!