Data visualisation: infographics

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:17 August 2022
Author:Analysis Function Central Team
Who this is for:People in government who want to create and publish infographics
Type:Guidance
Contact:Analysis.Function@ons.gov.uk

Introduction

This guidance sets out principles to consider when creating and publishing infographics.

 

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What is an infographic?

Infographics use charts, timelines, maps or other visualisations to provide engaging explanations of data.

They should tell users the story without needing lots of extra information.

Infographics can be effective but can be difficult to do well.

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Should you use an infographic?

When used well, infographics:

  • help to explain difficult messages
  • make stories more memorable
  • promote your work
  • are likely to be shared and re-used

However, sometimes, a different format would be better. For example a simple chart with some explanatory text could be clearer and more accessible for your users.

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Considerations

Consider the following:

1. Departmental policies 

There are different processes for creating infographics across different government departments. Consider your departmental policies alongside this guidance before opting for an infographic.

2. Users

User needs should be at the core of all decision making around output design. Always start your design process with the user in mind. Understanding how your data is used is key to determining whether an infographic is appropriate.

Share your data in formats which your users can understand and use. If you have lots of information to communicate, an infographic is probably not the best choice. You should seek insight and feedback from your users and respond to their needs.

3. Analyse your data

Before deciding on a visualisation method ask yourself:

  • what is the data story?
  • what do users need to know and understand from the data?
  • what is the best method for getting my message across?

4. Use appropriate visualisations

When using charts, graphs and tables in your infographic:

5. Work with others

High-quality infographics need a team of people to produce them, including analysts, designers and press office colleagues.

Designers will have gone through extensive training and use specialist software in order to produce effective infographics.

If the design is not done correctly, it could result in a poor or misleading infographic that could potentially damage reputation of your department.

6. Consider the value added

Producing high-quality and consistent infographics is not easy. It requires people who are trained in appropriate software and data design. It may not be appropriate to invest time in this if the demand and use is low.

Investigate your website analytics to see how much demand there is for your content. Set some expectations and goals ahead of time for what would constitute value added, and regularly review.

7. Accessibility

Your outputs must be accessible to everyone who needs them. This means you need to think about how users might access and use your content.

Accessibility legislation

Accessibility legislation came into force in September 2020. This means all content published on public sector websites must meet the level A and AA success criterion in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1.

Consequences for inaccessible content

Content on public sector websites that does not meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 can get complaints related to the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 and/or the Equality Act 2010.

Make sure whoever is responsible for the content you publish is aware of this and the possible risks involved.

Making infographics more accessible

Tip 1: Provide plain text alternative

Infographics are normally produced as PDF or image files. Generally, these are not accessible. The content within the infographic should also be available in an accessible format.

For infographics published on webpages, a good way to do this is to provide a plain text version on the same webpage. Providing it within the HTML body text of the page is best, you could use a document format, but HTML is generally more accessible.

If you have large amounts of data in your infographic it might be better to supply this in an accessible spreadsheet.

See our accessibility guidance for more information on supplying text and data in accessible formats.
See the Examples section for an example of an infographic with a plain text alternative.

For infographics made for social media, you can either link to a plain text alternative on a webpage or provide it via the comments section or available alt text field. Which option works best will depend on the complexity of the infographic.

See the Examples section for an example of a simple social media infographic.

Tip 2: Use SVG format

Supplying your infographic image in an SVG format also improves accessibility as the SVG format retains clarity even when someone zooms in to a high level.

Tip 3: Use our guidance for charts and colours

Finally, following our guidance for charts and colours also improves accessibility as these guidance items have been updated to incorporate the accessibility legislation.

8. Dissemination 

You must consider where you are publishing your infographic before you start designing.  Design choices should take into account how and where the infographic will be published. You also need to think about how you would expect a user to find an infographic compared to a traditional bulletin.

Remember that infographics published on a website, social media or in print may need different styles to be effective. You should consider the devices that your users will access the infographic on. Check your infographic will work on mobiles, tablets and different web browsers. You may need to use code to re-size or re-order your content. You will probably need to speak to a content designer to do this.

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Examples

Simple social media infographics

Simple social media infographics are used to share a small number of facts.

Example: the Office for National Statistics (ONS) used one on Twitter to share information about access to green spaces as part of its Twitter thread on data published in the Quality of life in the UK release.

There are various considerations that go into these, such as optimising the size of the image for various social media channels.

They cater for time-poor users on social media platforms. They should give small amounts of information quickly and clearly.

They may also inspire people to look further into the data. ONS uses them to direct users to the related publications.

In terms of accessibility, the plain text version has been supplied in Twitter’s alt text function (click on the “ALT” tab on the bottom left corner of the image).

Longer infographics

If you publish longer infographics you must supply a plain text alternative describing everything in the infographic.

Example: The Department for Transport provides a plain text alternative for an infographic in this publication on transport statistics.

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Checklist

  • Consider whether an infographic is the best tool to use
  • Know your audience and purpose
  • Let the data lead the story
  • Focus on important messages
  • Collaborate with designers and press office colleagues
  • Keep the infographic as simple as possible
  • For longer infographics make sure information is in a sensible order
  • Check how infographics look on mobile devices
  • Choose the best chart types for your data – use our charts guidance
  • Avoid visual clutter
  • Publish as an SVG format
  • Use our guidance on charts and colours to improve accessibility
  • Provide a plain text version of the content
  • Test your infographic with users – do they understand the story without explanation?
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Related links

Guidance from the Analysis Function Central Team:

Other links

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Any questions?

If you have any further questions you can:

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  • If you would like us to get in touch with you then please leave your contact details or email Analysis.Function@ons.gov.uk directly.
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