What is visual storytelling? Visual storytelling is a method of conveying narratives and ideas through visual media. Visual storytelling options include photography, illustration, animation and video. Businesses that incorporate visual storytelling into their marketing can improve engagement and recall.
As we learned from an earlier ClearVoice article, the second commandment of content marketing is to use storytelling and visual aids. I couldn’t agree more.
Marketers are drawn to data, in large part for the potential it has to tell a good story. One of the hottest trends over the last several years is for marketers to curate data, generally from sources such as prospect, customer or industry surveys, and then use that data to tell a story. Infographics are one of the preferred tools for visual storytelling.
But how do you create the infographic?
Creating an infographic
I’ve run point on the creation of a dozen or so infographics over the years. They have taken considerable resources, in time and money, to create.
- You must first gather the data. Surveys are often used and don’t require too much work as long as you have a large house email list and can get a quick consensus from all the decision makers on what questions will go into the survey.
- Once you have the data you’ll be conveying, you then need to put it into an easily understood format that a designer can work with. The ideation processes to format the data into rough specifications for your designer often takes several long meetings with the different decision makers.
- After you have designer-ready specifications, you’ll meet with your designer and put them to work.
- They’ll get a rough draft back to you. You’ll revise. They’ll redesign. You’ll revise… and so forth.
- 100+ hours and a significant amount of money later, and you have a rockin’ infographic!
Isn’t there a faster way?
Producing infographics more easily with tools like Piktochart, Canva or Visme
Curating the data and generating ideas around the story you will tell are inescapable steps in the production of your infographic. From my experience, however, those steps account for well under half of the effort. The majority of effort is spent on getting the designer aligned with your vision and creating it.
Thankfully, there are a lot of tools that help non-designers create visual storytelling aids.
In this article, I review what I consider to be the three largest players in the space: Piktochart, Canva and Visme.
I have no personal stake in any of these companies, and to treat them all in a fair, non-biased fashion, I will be judging them all on the same criteria:
- Time to get going. How hard is it to get started with the tool? Do they have training, tool tips, or videos to help you learn what you’re doing?
- Overall ease-of-use. How good is their user interface? How easy is it to use?
- Feature richness. How does the actual infographic building functionality stack up?
- The depth of template choices. How many templates are there? Are there templates that could be easily used as a starting design?
- Price. How much does it cost?
- Fun factor. Is the solution fun to use?
At the end of the article, you can see the grading rubric with the specific criteria weighting that I’ve used. I’ll also assign an “overall winner” to one of these three solutions.
The actual process I’ll be using in judging these solutions is to take 30 minutes using each tool. I’ve used each of these tools a little in the past, but it has been long enough that I can easily pretend I am a complete newcomer for the first 30 minutes.
1. Piktochart in-depth review
Launched in 2011, Piktochart is the oldest of the three tools. Even though they’re in a distant time zone in Malaysia, Piktochart was the most responsive of the three solutions when I reached out to them for a quote. So, my initial impression was good.
Jacqueline Jensen, Piktochart’s Community Evangelist, shared this about their company vision: “Our team of 60 is working each day to democratize design and give non-designers tools to make their information beautiful. Nearly 8 million individuals, companies, nonprofits and educators use Piktochart to create, and this year our focus is set on continued innovation.”
After 30 minutes
I really like Piktochart. It’s got an easy-to-use interface, and the chart builder is fabulous. My main concerns are that it isn’t as robust in export options as Visme, and the template options are harder to sort through than Canva or Visme.
- Piktochart’s map and chart builders are the best of all three tools. For the map builder, you can specify any country you’d like to visualize, and then it’ll break up that country into regions you can easily customize. The chart builder provides you with a mini spreadsheet you put data into, and then it’ll output the requisite charts for you.
- “Download as blocks” feature is awesome. For most infographics I’ve done lately, I’ve wanted to break them into smaller parts. Since I’ve traditionally built my infographics inside Adobe Illustrator, this means creating new artboards for each section and saving each section out individually — a rather arduous process. With Piktochart, you can use the “download as blocks” feature to have ready-to-tweet, smaller micro-graphics, without having to save each one individually.
- Piktochart has the best section manipulation functionality. You can easily clone sections, move them up or down, or delete them.
- They tried to keep all the support inside the main window, where you create your designs. Thus, their help option sits in a small modal window at the bottom right while you design. They may have thought this would be nice to be able to get help while you’re designing, but it feels restrictive, like you’re not able to get a full suite of help. Both the other tools have dedicated support centers that open in a new tab and seem to have richer support content.
- No rich media (HTML5) export options.
- Some of the infographic templates are excellent quality, but there are a fair amount that are just blah.
- No way to search the infographic templates based on topic, tags or design.
$24/user/month if paid annually
A (3.75 out of 5 possible points)
2. Canva in-depth review
Founded shortly after Piktochart (2012), Canva has received a lot of positive press and several large rounds of funding. Canva is based out of Sydney, Australia. Despite repeated outreach for a quote, they never got back to me. This may be due to them being the company with the most media coverage… but it didn’t leave a good first impression.
After 30 minutes
Canva is a great tool when it comes to simplicity and ease-of-use. It wins out in ease-of-use. However, it isn’t as robust as as Piktochart or Visme when it comes to infographic elements design. If I were looking for an all-around tool that could do a slew of social media and design layouts well, I might pick Canva. However, it isn’t the best solution for infographic designs.
- They’ve got a great design school to help newbies get started, and it is quite good.
- Canva has a slew of different visual assets you can create: social media images, full sheet graphics, cards, presentations, posters, infographics and more. They have the widest range of design items of the three.
- It definitely wins if you’re targeting the mommy blogger or artist audience. There are a number of excellent sticker-looking graphical call-outs that resonate well with the artistically astute crowd.
- When presented with the infographic templates, there’s no way to search by keyword. You must scroll through the full list to find what you’re looking for.
- No rich media (HTML5) export options.
- Didn’t respond to requests for a quote. They are well-funded and seem to get a lot of attention in the media, which is great. However, sometimes when companies aren’t as hungry for growth, they aren’t responsive to customer input. This may be the case with Canva.
- Infographic templates are a little bit on the blah side. They look a lot like what you might get if you pay someone $5 on Fiverr to create you an infographic.
$10/user/month if paid annually
A- (3.65 out of 5 possible points)
3. Visme in-depth review
Visme also launched in 2012, shortly after Canva. Like Piktochart, they were quick to respond to my request for a quote, and their founder/CEO actually responded. They are based in the United States.
Payman Taei, the founder and president of Visme, said this about his company: “Visme was created with one primary goal in mind: To allow anyone with or without design knowledge to easily translate their ideas and stories into engaging visuals, where you’re only limited by your imagination. Visme has spent the last four years to transform itself into one easy-to-use app that inspires its users to create better content in form of engaging presentations, infographics and other visual formats so you can publish and share their content online or download for offline use.”
After 30 minutes
Visme lacks a user interface polish that the other two solutions have. However, what it lacks in polish, it makes up for in functionality. It allows you to publish interactive and animated infographics, something that neither of the other platforms allow. It also has great charting functionality that almost rivals Piktochart. Overall, the feature set in Visme, though not as polished, is far more robust than in Piktochart or Canva.
- One of my favorite features of Visme is the keyword search function for the templates. When viewing templates, put in a keyword for the type of layout you want, and it returns relevant results.
- Another feature I love is the ability to create interactive and animated infographics in Visme, something neither of the other tools allow you to do. You can make long-format infographics that change as you scroll. To do that, you need to export/publish them as HTML5 infographics — a function that is only possible in Visme.
- All three tools enable you to do designs other than infographics, and while Canva wins in this category, Visme has some great options for banner advertisements. Their banner ad and social banner/post templates are better than the other two.
- Another great function that makes Visme stand alone is its foldering (yes, it’s a word) capability. As your design library grows, you can keep all your assets organized with their foldering system.
- While Visme’s chart-building tool isn’t quite as robust as Piktochart’s, it is still excellent.
- Visme is so robust that it takes a little longer to learn. It’s obvious Visme doesn’t have as much experience with creating slick user interfaces, making the time to learn the solution is a little longer.
- Changing, cloning and moving the sections in Visme isn’t as easy as it is in Piktochart.
- They have 18,000+ free images you can pull into your infographic, but the options for isolated photo elements on transparent backgrounds are nonexistent.
$19/user/month if paid annually
The grading criteria and rubric
Interested in seeing the math behind the grades?
I made no effort to try and get the scores close. I graded them as I went, and put down each grade independently of each other. It turns out all the solutions are pretty awesome, though I believe Visme wins out for the extra functionality that Piktochart and Canva don’t have.
Here’s how I’ve calculated the scores: