If you are among those who feel that we see too many infographics these days, be prepared for a little more eye candy: Visual.ly, which offers an online tool to create instant visualizations of data, is launching its first public product out of beta.
The service will let users take publicly-available data such as information from a Twitter hashtag or a Facebook feed, and then select a template (currently five, with each having two to three variations within it) to instantly visualize it. It will also team up with third parties and brands to offer other data feeds to users: one, for example, will involve sports statistics from ESPN.
While infographics seem like the kind of thing that would mostly be the domain of number-crunching analysts and journalists, created for consumption by the wider public, the use of Visual.ly’s beta — launched last year — testifies to there being a bigger audience for actually making these pictures firsthand.
Stew Langille, the company’s founder and CEO, tells TechCrunch that since launching that beta, it has seen the creation of over 11,000 infographics and seen 2 million visitors per month. And more than than 500,000 people have used the specially-created Twitter Visualizer since it launched in July 2011.
“There’s a reason why we’re seeing so many infographics,” he says. “It’s because it’s just a better way of telling a story.”
The company also continues to work directly with companies to create custom infographics for news organizations as well as brands — these have included Showtime, Smirnoff and Cisco — and Langille concedes that for now this is where the company’s primary revenue generation lies. Another important partnership for Visual.ly, he notes, is with Tableau Software, the business intelligence software company — that could point to the kind of place where Visual.ly might land itself one day.
But for now, the company, which has raised $2.4 million to date and is likely to go for another round in Q4, is still focused on building out more ways of visually representing data and ways of then offering that for use by everyday people. Langille, and his co-founder Lee Sherman, both hail from Mint.com, and as with that site, which attempts to make personal money management tools into something usable by everyone, the idea is that Visual.ly can also have a wider remit.
He talks of the impact that blogging sites like WordPress, Pinterest and even Facebook’s Timeline — in itself a kind of constantly changing infographic — have had on how people have chosen to be creative online.
WordPress he singles out also for the role that “crowdsourced” design has played to usher in that process: the idea is that someday Visual.ly will have the same kind of design repository for representing information, and that information could then be used anywhere. “We want to turn data into something that is really beautiful and usable.”