By Gordon Graham
Every white paper needs at least one effective graphic to help anchor its argument in the reader’s mind.
The problem: Not every white paper has a budget for custom graphics.
Here are two cost-effective tools that can really help out, one for business graphics, and the other for stock photography.
For business graphics, use SmartDraw
SmartDraw 2008 is an extremely easy-to-use drawing program that comes preloaded with 100+ templates for all sorts of business graphics, from accident reconstructions to workflows. Some of these can be perfect for white papers, such as flowcharts, maps, network diagrams, pyramids, steps, Venn diagrams, and so on.
Why not use Illustrator or Visio? Or throw together something in Word or PowerPoint? Well, I’ve tried all those, and given up. The professional tools take weeks to learn, and the office-level ones aren’t powerful enough.
SmartDraw gives you the best of both worlds: a fast and easy workflow along with crisp, professional results good enough for any white paper.
For example, the first time I use SmartDraw, I created a professional-looking timeline in less than one hour. That included learning the program from scratch, and doing a second version based on my client’s comments.
Here’s the secret. Instead of presenting you with a blank screen like other drawing tools, SmartDraw comes bundled with “smart templates” for different graphics. You start with a finished drawing something like the one you need, and then modify it to suit… which is far faster than starting from a blank screen.
These templates are “smart” so you don’t have to fiddle with connectors, spacing, or shading. All that is done auto magically for you.
At $200, SmartDraw will pay for itself in the first two or three graphics you do…and it won’t suck up days of your time to get great results.
For affordable stock photos, use istockphoto.com
But suppose you need something beyond a graphic, like a photo? The best place to find inexpensive photography without royalty restrictions is www.istockphoto.com.
This site has grown to the point that it’s now one of the web’s finest sources for fresh, inexpensive stock photography. I’ve used istockphoto to find great pictures for case studies and presentations, and I’m looking forward to my next white paper that needs a good photo.
The comprehensive indexing makes finding the right photo a relatively pleasant experience. The site has tons of shots of people, places, things, and abstracts. And for about five dollars a pop, you just can’t beat the price.
I’m not suggesting you fill up your white papers with fake, cloying photos that make them look like ads or brochures. But a well-chosen photo can help retain the interest of readers easily bored with a wall of grey text.
These two easy-to-use and cost effective resources promise to help any white paper creator add more visual flair to your documents… without breaking your budget.
About the Author: Gordon Graham helps technology firms tell their stories with compelling case studies and persuasive white papers. He’s the founder of www.thatwhitepaperguy.com and a frequent poster on the WhitePaperSource Forums.