Visual.ly Debuts Free DIY Infographic Creation Tool

Love or hate infographics, there’s no denying that they do a good job of catching the attention of readers and driving page views. But there’s a price to pay for that kind of traffic-driver; creating them can be incredibly time-consuming, or costly if outsourced to an external designer or design firm. Today, however, infographic curation and design site Visual.ly introduced its Create tool, which promises to let users make their own data visualizations for free.

The idea behind Visual.ly Create is to allow users to quickly and easily generate their own infographics. At this early stage in the tool’s development, it’s limited to just a few types of data input, but you can see that it has plenty of potential for growth. Basically, as the tool exists now, you can populate it with information from Twitter and Facebook, but Visual.ly is promising new additions in the future that will allow a greater range.

Visual.ly CEO and co-founder Stew Langille told BetaKit in an interview that this is “just the tip of the iceberg” for Create. “We’ve built a platform that allows us to quickly and easily plug in different data sets. It’s agnostic of data input, so we can plug in virtually any data,” he said. Langille also explained why Create initially focuses on using Twitter and Facebook feeds and not more complicated data sets.

“From an end-user standpoint, people don’t really want to upload Excel files, CSV files,” he noted. “It’s not the easiest process for us to do, and it’s also not where we see the greatest demand from the end-user. They’re looking at authenticating via Facebook, Twitter, Fitbit, Mint, Spotify, and they want to see their habits based on the various services they subscribe to, because that’s really where most of their data lives.”

Langille says accepting input from those additional services and more is in the works, as well as providing access to publicly available data about things like politics, unemployment and national financial information. Not only that, but future iterations of Create will also be able to combine and compare data sets from different services, broadening significantly its possible applications.

“We want to combine data sets; so for example, look at Spotify and iTunes, and see whether once you join Spotify does your iTunes usage decline,” Langille told us. “You could tie in something like Mint, and look at how your spending has changed over time as you’ve used different services like Facebook, where you could see as you went from married to single how your purchasing habits have changed.”

Visual.ly Create seems right now to fit best with personal bloggers, individuals and educational users who want to create something shareable without much work. For businesses and people who need more professional products, Visual.ly offers its commissioned design work, too, which the company doesn’t see as in competition with the free product. In fact, Langille said he believes the free tools should help funnel customers to Visual.ly’s paid designers, by providing more exposure for their template work and offering a gateway product for users who’re looking for more specific, complex or custom work than what Create offers.

Other potential future revenue-generating opportunities for Visual.ly include the possibility of offering a service built on its infographic-creation tools that power a backend dashboard, for both individuals and businesses. Langille sees an opportunity to bring excellent-looking data visualization to areas that have traditionally been more about sober, all-business design.

Easy-to-use data visualization tools are becoming increasingly popular, with Soup.me, which is in private beta, unveiling a solution targeted specifically at SXSW attendees last week and Vizualize.me aiming to make infographics a part of the job application process. Visual.ly’s expansion of its DIY component will help it grow its mindshare in the space even further, and open doors for a whole range of potential use cases and integrations.

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