Infographics are everywhere these days. There are Tumblrs and blogs full of them, countless articles discussing and collecting them and we can certainly all conjure up a mental image of a memorable infographic. And of course this array of infographics is quite discursive, covering everything from timelines to business data to mixing cocktails.
If you want to hop on the infographic bandwagon, you can always try creating an infographic in any old graphic design program you might have. Unfortunately, without a lot of font and image downloads, you won’t be able to capture the characteristic look of the infographics we all know and love. That’s where Piktochart comes in, a web app which allows you to create and customize infographics for personal and professional use. I took the time to explore what it’s like to make an infographic in this dedicated program, so stick with me after the jump to find out whether Piktochart is worth your time and money.
The 30 Minutes or Less Approach
One of the claims that Piktochart makes is that you can create a custom infographic in under 30 minutes, and this is true whether you subscribe to a pro account or not. The key here is taking the easy route – editing an existing layout/theme.
If you choose this route, you can go ahead and choose a theme for your infographic. If you’re a basic user, you’ll only have five themes or so to choose from. Pro users get over a hundred themes, but more on that later.
After choosing the theme, you can also choose a different color scheme from the side panel. Then, all you have to do is edit the existing content in order to create your own unique infographic. Click the shape/object you wish to edit (or double click to edit text), then use the properties toolbar up above to edit the object. You can rotate objects, alter the layer/opacity, resize, move, change the color and edit the text attributes from this property bar, allowing you to customize the existing theme for your own purposes.
The Several Hour Approach
Using an existing layout is all well and good, and if you happen to have an infographic need that matches one of the provided themes, then by all means utilize it. Most of the time, however, there won’t be a handy, pre-made theme which suits your needs. If you want to create an infographic from scratch, you’ll still start by choosing a theme. The theme provides the style of the infographic you’ll create, though you can clear the canvas after selecting a theme to ensure that you’re able to start from scratch.
Once you’ve cleared the canvas, you can start to insert the elements of your infographic. There are three object types to insert – shapes, graphics and theme graphics. The shapes include everything from basic shapes like squares and circles to complex shapes like thumbs up symbols and utensil symbols. The graphics section includes images like maps and popular website icons. The theme graphics section contains images specific to the theme you’ve chosen, contributing to a cohesive overall look.
To add an element, simply drag and drop it onto your canvas. This method also works to add text – simply select the text section, choose which section of the infographic your text is for (e.g. header or footer), then drag and drop a text box. Click on any added objects to edit them using the properties toolbar, as described in the previous section.
There are a few other tools which come in handy when creating your very own infographic. One is the ability to upload and insert your own image, found in the tools section. Once your image is uploaded, just drag and drop to insert it like any other element.
You can also add charts to your infographic, using the chart-making tool. To use this, select “create a chart” in the tools menu, then either import a CSV file for data or manually enter the data yourself. Within the chart menu you can add, edit and delete data, insert/delete columns and rows, and even tweak the chart colors.
Once you’ve added all of your elements, simply tweak as needed. If you’re all done and ready to export your infographic, head onto the next section.
Share and Go Pro
Now of course we can’t let all of your work go to waste, so let’s get sharing. If you have a basic user account, there are a few sharing options available. Start by saving your infographic so that nothing gets lost. Once you’re ready, you can download your infographic as an image or as raw data.
As you can see, it’s certainly possible to make a nice looking infographic with just a basic user account. If you wish, you can certainly choose to upgrade to a pro account for some additional functionality. A pro account gives you access to over 100 themes, plus some additional tools like the ability to create batch images and greater font customization. Another pay-for feature is a printing tool, where you can print your infographic on a large-scale canvas for convenient wall art you design yourself.
Is Piktochart a Good Investment?
Now it all comes down to determining whether or not it’s worth investing time in Piktochart. Let’s start with the good. First of all, you can make fantastic looking graphics using just the app. Even with the limited number of free themes, it’s entirely possible to make a professional looking infographic with minimal investment. Another great feature of Piktochart is the ability to create a fully customized infographic in under an hour. No matter how much time you choose (or don’t choose) to invest, the final product can look great.
The downsides of Piktochart? There aren’t too many, but they’re definitely worth noting. First is the cost of a pro account. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but considering all the tools and options you get in the application, it’s not too much of a financial drain. The most annoying thing about Piktochart is the lack of keyboard integration. There are many web apps where keyboard shortcuts are included, albeit not as intensely as a traditional desktop application. Piktochart doesn’t include keyboard shortcuts, so as an avid Adobe CS user it was quite frustrating to have my process slowed down so immensely. Even copy and paste aren’t available as keyboard shortcuts.
The lack of keyboard integration is a definite downside, but if you have any interest in creating custom infographics and don’t have a dedicated desktop application you are intimately familiar with, Piktochart is definitely worth trying out. It’s also worth it if you aren’t so interested in finding custom fonts, textures and graphics to make up an infographic and would rather just pull from the included objects in Piktochart. The application is free to try (and you never have to pay if you don’t want to), so give it a go and publish the next big infographic with Piktochart.