A well-designed business report is likely to trigger curiosity and encourage people to flip through pages or scroll with the mouse.
In business, reports are commonplace and usually not that exciting – so how do we create documents our audience really want to read? Well, you can start by using a report designer tool to choose a template style and then use strategies to present the content of the report, to make it more interesting for your audience.
Report Format and Structure
There are many ways to share data, so you don’t have to use pdf files. Instead, try with other formats like infographics, microsites, live data charts, and anything else you feel will encourage better conversion rates of your content.
Example: Getflywheel has for some time used a microsite to share their annual report.
Using HTML and frontend software, the presentation of boring numbers is turned around with interesting graphics and charts using animation.
After deciding on your report format, e.g. microsite or infographic, give priority to the structure of your report. It’s the structure that ensures the logical flow of content your audience will appreciate.
Follow the standard index of content:
- an overview or background
- principle points
Now we’re up to how you can present your content. Your report can include storytelling, infographics and pictograms, videos and graphs to ensure the content is easy to comprehend and memorable for your audience.
Use the power of storytelling
We all love stories, and storytelling presents data and content in a more exciting way.
In business, it’s vital to keep your audience interested and engaged with the message. HubSpot sums it up well in their post and say telling a story is like painting a picture but with words.
You can use your audience’s knowledge to inject analogies and local knowledge of culture, the environment and communities to get the message across.
Pro-tip: According to research, storytelling has a positive influence on the recall of information of readers.
When you’re creating a digital report, interactivity is the key to success. Readers are likely to turn to reports with audios, embedded videos, and prompt animations.
Interactive and animated charts and graphs draw the reader’s focus and lead their eyes to a specific point on the chart, thereby delivering your message.
Apart from keeping readers engaged for a long duration, it encourages them to share and return to your report. Furthermore, interactive reports are a great way to entice short readers looking for insights. These animated graphs could help them search for information.
Therefore using visuals also helps to break up hard to digest data and words.
If your report is number intensive, data visualization could add value. Use charts, pictograms, and charts to showcase your numbers. Use blurbs to highlight critical points.
All these elements work collectively to tell a story and make your report stand out. Therefore, start with a simple idea, slowly build upon your idea and finally reach a logical conclusion to your report.
A great example of an interactive chart is when a chart legend appears as your reader hover over the graph’s bar or line.
Pro-tip: Use interactive charts to reveal trends and patterns over time. It helps stakeholders see untapped data which they can use for their business benefit.
Example: Notice how Noord used annual report infographics to showcase a visual story that was engaging, compelling, and impactful. The company effortlessly uses characters in a creative and hand-drawn style. Apart from storytelling, their report displays excellent copywriting skills, which ties story elements perfectly with the subject.
While you may be using animations, embedded videos, infographics, and data points in your report to make it digestible, try keeping your report focused on sharing the content and data pertinent to the report.
For example, when creating a visual investor business report, there is no point in mentioning sales, revenue from upsell or cross-sell, and the cost breakdown of marketing and sales.
Why? As you’re creating a report for business funding, KPIs such as debt-to-equity ratio, share price, work capital ratio, etc., matters.
To include everything you deem necessary, you end up creating ocean-boiling reports. These are one of the most dreaded reports because it’s incredibly tedious to search for information in such reports.
Therefore, it’s best to start by identifying the reason for designing a report and outline all questions it will answer.
Build your report to answer those questions. Never include graphics, text, or data for the sake of it. Irrespective of how beautiful your graph looks with a data point, remove data points if they are not required. Remember that at times less is better because it helps you remain focused.
Pro-tip: Never create a one-size-fits-all report. Different scenarios require different types of reports. For example, one report may be for your CMO, while the other may be for potential investors.
Often, after completing a business report, you may feel that your report is not delivering any helpful information. It’s not adding any value. That’s okay. You probably need to revisit the goals of your report to understand what you are missing.
To add value to your report, have a meeting with team members to understand which checkpoints you should remove.
Furthermore, recheck the time frame of your report if it’s not adding any value. For example, you may have created a sales report 15 days back, and due to worldwide lockdown or other circumstances, the sales numbers remain unchanged.
Creating another sales report would not provide any valuable insight to your readers. So, check whether you’re pulling your business report at the correct time.
Revisiting doesn’t mean proofreading your report for errors. It is more about making your business report present insightful information instead of just sharing information.
Pro-tip: When revisiting your report, ensure to keep the data points, facts, and figures fresh and up-to-date.
Before a reader dives into the content, it’s the colors, borders, and page size that give them an overall sense of your report’s quality and theme.
Therefore, after deciding on the layout, you need to give importance to your business report’s overall aesthetic appearance. Filling an entire page with information and visuals makes your report look cluttered.
So, give a good amount of space around the edges and ensure you use proper margins. For business reports, the most common margin is one-inch margins all around.
Adding margins makes your report feel minimalistic and clean. Having content too close to your design’s edge makes your report look unprofessional and fails to deliver the intended message.
Example: Notice how Carlberg uses margins to increase the report’s readability.
Pro-tip: Pay attention to the white spaces as it primarily affects readability. Both spacing and margins are essential secrets that differentiate a killer business report from a mediocre one.
The adage says, you get only one chance to create a first impression, rings true when it comes to your business reports. That’s why brands are doing more with their business reports to impress and improve their readability.