Visual appeal might be a big part of what entices web users to check out an infographic, but that infographic also needs to provide high-quality information if it’s going to hold the viewer’s attention for more than a couple seconds. In the first part of this series “How to Make Infographics for Free”, I covered how to use free templates to make attractive infographics, so now I’m going to turn my attention to how you can gather data for your infographic without spending a dime.
Some organizations internally generate content for their infographic, using surveys or case studies, for example. This is certainly an option, but it can also consume valuable time and resources if it’s not something your business already does. Fortunately, if you’re unable to or uninterested in gathering data from your organization, there are plenty of free online resources that you can use.
The key is finding reliable data sources so that your infographic is as up-to-date and authoritative as possible.
First, What Not to Do
Before getting into good sources of data online, let’s go over a few sources that will likely hurt your infographic’s credibility and may provide inaccurate information. You should avoid:
- User-generated content websites, including Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers, Reddit, and Quora. The problem is that anyone can post on these sites, so there’s no way to verify that the information presented is accurate. It’s okay to use sites like Wikipedia as a starting place, but you need to look at the references listed there rather than citing the user-generated content site itself.
- Websites with a very low domain authority. If you’ve found your way to a website with a very low SEO ranking and domain authority, it’s probably not a reliable source. Obvious red flags might include blog posts that are blatant advertisements or web pages that haven’t been updated in years, but you can get a concrete look at a website’s domain authority by plugging the URL into Custom Rank.
- News articles and blog posts. Any reputable journalist or blogger should cite their sources whenever they include a specific fact, so follow the link back to the source material. For example, if you’re reading a New York Times story that cites a study published by The Journal of American Medicine Association, you would want to look up the study on the JAMA website.
Where to Find Free Data: Validated Sources
Some of the best places to find reliable (but free) data for your infographic are validated sources. These are data sets made public by governments and public organizations, so they should have been thoroughly fact-checked.
The specific sites you’ll want to check will depend on the topic of your infographic. For example, if you want to create an infographic about the growth of the graphic design industry in the last 20 years, you would probably want to start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. If you wanted to create an infographic about the link between substance abuse and depression, you would want to start at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.
Here are a few more general validated sources that you may find useful:
- World Bank: information about the global economy, environment, gender, social development, and more
- UN Data: includes huge databases on everything from crime to information technology and also has links to specific country data services
- US Census: includes demographic information on the US population
- Google Public Data: allows you to perform Google searches with results specifically from validated public data providers
More Free Sources for Infographic Data
If you’ve ever looked at the lists of sources on other business’s infographics, you’ve probably noticed that not all of them come from government and world organization websites. It is okay to use other sources as long as they’re reputable.
If you wanted to create any type of infographic about movies, for example, you might look for information at the International Movie Database (IMDb), or if you wanted to make an infographic about professional football teams, you could go to the official NFL website.
If you’re unsure whether a website is reputable, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it cite sources when presenting facts (or explain the experimental process when presenting findings from the organization’s own studies)?
- Can the information be verified through another source?
- Is the author qualified to write on this topic?
- Is there an obvious agenda? (Going to the eHarmony website to find statistics about the popularity of online dating might not give you the most accurate picture, for example.)
- Is the information presented up to date? Can you find more current data anywhere else online?
Spend some time exploring various free resources to find data for your infographic. There are services that charge a fee to access their databases, but it is unlikely you’ll have to use these since there is so much free information available online.
You should now have a firm grasp on where to find templates and data for your infographics—all without spending any money. In the next (and final) part of this series on how to create infographics for free, I’ll discuss some free tools you can use to polish and format your infographics to share with a wider audience.