November 25, 2014

How to Create Charts And Visual Data Using iCharts

People like charts. They like to see ideas and data in a visual form which is what drives the popularity of infographics. The real power in visual information is that people can share it via email or social media. iCharts makes the process of taking data into a visual form easy for the small business owner.

iCharts is a cloud-based chart application that can make your content creation efforts better. Let’s be brutally honest here: When we write a blog post or share something on Facebook to promote our business, our thought leadership, we want prospects to see it.

The flip side, for the consumer or business prospect, is they want educational, informational, non-sales type content. The iCharts platform provides a code-free interactive charting template that will allow you to compile the data to create what Hugh MacLeod, creator of the famous Gaping Void cartoon, calls a “Social Object.”

Here is a quick visual that I created in a free level account to showcase how it works:

create charts

You can see some of the tabs on the right, which allow a very granular level of detail and data. You can import datasets (think spreadsheets and databases) or just manually enter some basic numbers as I did to create this simple fictitious pie chart. You can do some of these things in a spreadsheet, of course, but iCharts lets you import from Microsoft Excel, or Google Spreadsheet, or even data from the web with services like SurveyMonkey. You can save that dataset and use it again, too.

What I really like:

  • That they offer a brainstorm lab called the Chart Channel. In this section, you can see charts and visuals that are public from some of their 15,000+ customers.
  • You can insert the chart into your website as a simple embed. You copy the code and paste it into your site or blog post. You can see what happens when I copied a one of the chart channel items about Holiday Shopping 2012. It adds a caption and tags, too. Useful for SEO.

 


 

Chart: When consumers will start holiday shopping. Four in 10 (41.4%) of Americans say they will begin holiday shopping before Halloween. Description: Tags: retail, holidays, shopping. Author: charts powered by iCharts.

  • The template feature is handy if you want to jazz up a chart with images or your logo, for example.

What I would like to see:

  • A way to switch the chart type after you have selected a different option. For example, if you start with a bar chart, you cannot change it to a pie chart. You have to start over.
  • They offer a great tutorial document when you sign up, but some callout, pop-up type boxes might help new users get started. For example, I never noticed the template tab until later in the design process.

If you are going to create a visual, make a point. Don’t toss numbers onto a chart. Yes, people like to share visual data online, even charts, but you must make them memorable and make sure you keep consistent with your own brand message. You can’t make data interesting because of a pie chart alone.

The iCharts service can help you make visual documents and make them more shareable, but you still have to do the hard thinking and heavy lifting. They offer a limited free level plan that allow for unlimited charts, then paid plans start at $10/month.

Charts Photo via Shutterstock

2 Comments ▼

TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

2 Reactions

  1. Great info. I would def be interested in attempting this for inclusion in one of my blog posts. Thanks for sharing.

    Ti

  2. Comment from iCharts team….

    Very well described. Thank you.

    Great idea on the popup aids for the new user. We do have them turned on when you sign up. But we definitely will improve on that in an upcoming release.

    On the first point, it is very easy to change chart types. Simply click on the chart type icon. There is no need to start over again.

    http://www.icharts.net/faq/what-type-charts-can-i-create

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