Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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Technically, as an infographics/data visualisations designer, I really shouldn’t even be promoting these but they’re big news at the moment and you may be tempted to give them a go.

Choosing one of these tools is the equivalent of using a template CV  – it does the job, most people won’t mind and it’s cheaper /easier than doing something else.

The downside is, they can look “off the peg”, you still need a certain amount of creativity to get something original and you’ll end up changing your content to fit into the theme you’re using.

But they’re free/cheap and great if you can’t afford someone like me (If you can, feel free to get in touch … see some of my hand drawn work here)

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The 2 infographics designer tools I’ll be comparing are Easel.ly and Piktochart. Scroll down to SUMMARY if you’re short of time!

Both are free services (with pro versions available with more theme options etc.) I’ll be looking at the free versions today.

The principle is that you pick a theme, and remove/change/add graphics and text to illustrate your information.

 

Piktochart

PIktochart
The 6 themes available with the free version of Piktochart

Piktochart allows you to choose from a selection (seven) themes, which can then be further modified within the editing window i.e. background and images.

The choice of themes is pretty limited (and look a bit dated now) and some of the graphics do verge on the “clipart” but there are some useful items in there if you dig around the “Entertainment” category (would be easier to have broken down a bit!).

You can add or remove entire sections (blocks) within the editing window which is handy for moving chunks of information around the graphic. However, I’ve found this to be more of a hindrance than a help as it’s quick glitchy to use (maybe it needs getting used to!)

Sadly, you cannot accurately use the graphics to denote scale (ie larger circles for larger values)  – yes you can manually drag the size of the icons, but not input a specific size – so your I would suggest avoiding “size” as a visual tool altogether.

There is the function to upload and add your own graphics, useful for photos or corporate logos.

Piktochart comes into it’s own, however, with the function to add charts. Dragging the “chart” tool onto the desktop opens a spreadsheet style window that you simply paste your data into (you can also upload a CSV). Don’t expect miracles if you upload huge swathes of data, however – as the charting tool is about as smart as the one in Excel. I suggest uploading a few select statistics and selecting the chart that suits. You can easily modify colours and style, so it’s a great tool for inserting small snappy charts into your infographic.

Easel.ly

easely screengrab
Just a few of the many themes available with the free version of Easel.ly

Where Piktochart fell down on overall style of themes and graphics, Easel.ly wins hands down. It’s a smooth clean interface, with some great graphics and icons to choose from. It’s very simple to use and there are some very smart themes to give you a head start.

Plus, and this is a big plus for me, you can  open a “clear window“, essentially start from scratch. With Piktochart you have to manually delete all the elements, and as the themes are quick complex, with some “locked” content, this can be a big hassle.

The 2 downsides of Easel.ly are biggies, however.

1. You cannot introduce data or charts. This is a real shame as this would put Easel.ly ahead of Piktochart.

2. As with Piktochart, you cannot specify the size of graphics – so could not use this for visually showing scale.

 

SUMMARY

If you need to introduce accurate charts to your infographics, I suggest using Piktochart. If not, Easel.ly wins hands down on style, ease of use and creativity.

GOOD BAD
EASE.LY nice choice of iconsuseful and stylish layoutseasy to use (not over complicated)simple to use no charts facilitycannot accurately specify size of objectscan’t specify size of image
PIKTOCHART allows you add data/chartsability to add “blocks” of content to change size of imageability to move blocks of content around limited themesno “blank” themetricky to delete current content

cannot accurately specify size of objects
poor choice of icons
icons cheezy/cliche
bit clunky

 

 


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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