This guidance sets out principles to consider when creating and publishing infographics.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- follow our data visualisation guidance
- choose the best chart types for your data
- avoid visual clutter
- use our colours guidance to make sure your use of colour is in line with the government accessibility guidelines
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 (such as Adobe Photoshop) to produce effective infographics.
If the design is not done correctly, it could result in a poor or misleading infographic that could potentially damage the reputation of your department.
6. Consider the value added
High-quality and consistent infographics are not easy to produce. 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 are 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.
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 came into force in September 2020. This means all content published on public sector websites must meet the level A and AA success criteria 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. This could cause reputational damage and loss of public trust.
Make sure whoever is responsible for the content you publish is aware of this and the possible risks involved.
Tips for 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.
Our accessibility guidance has more information on supplying text and data in accessible formats.
The Examples section of this guidance links to 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 of this guidance for an example of a simple social media infographic.
Tip 2: Use the Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) format
Supplying your infographic image in an SVG format improves accessibility as this format retains clarity even when someone zooms in to a high level.
Tip 3: Use our charts and colours guidance
All charts in your infographic should follow our data visualisation guidance:
These guidance items incorporate relevant accessibility success criteria.
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. For example designs appropriate for webpages will differ from those appropriate for social media.
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. View your infographic on different devices and browsers to see what it looks like. You may need to use code to re-size or re-order your content. You may need to speak to a content designer in your department to do this.
Simple social media infographics
Simple social media infographics are used to share a small number of facts.
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. You can access this by selecting the “ALT” tab on the bottom left corner of the image when viewing the tweet on Twitter.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) used simple social media infographics on Twitter to share information about access to green spaces. These were part of a Twitter thread on data published in the Quality of Life in the UK release.
In terms of access to green spaces, 60.9% of people in England said they accessed the natural environment in the last 14 days in March 2022 🌳
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) August 12, 2022
Longer infographics can be used to share a large quantity of complex information in a visually appealing way. They can be used in reports and on websites.
They may also inspire people to look further into the data.
You should ensure they do not become too cluttered and the content within them is concise.
In terms of accessibility:
- avoid small font sizes
- provide the image in an SVG format – this format maintains clarity even when users zoom in to high degree
- provide a plain text alternative explaining all the information within the infographic
Example: The Department for Transport provides a plain text alternative for an infographic in this publication on transport statistics.
- 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?
Guidance from the Analysis Function Central Team:
- Charts: a checklist
- Data visualisation e-learning
- Data visualisation: colours
- Data visualisation: tables
- Releasing statistics in spreadsheets
- Using symbols and shorthand
- Making analytical publications accessible
If you have any further questions you can:
- email Analysis.Function@ons.gov.uk
- join our Basecamp project for accessibility for statistics and analysis or presentation and dissemination of statistics and analysis – if you are not on the Cross Government Basecamp, email Analysis.Function@ons.gov.uk for an invite link
- contact your departmental presentation or web dissemination champion
- contact us through Twitter @gov_analysis