Creating Annual Reports People Love to Read

It's no secret: annual reports are typically a pain to create and dull to read. They're one of the best opportunities we have to share everything we've done in the past year with people, so why is it that so often they fall flat?

We've found that there are a few things that can really make or break annual reports. Design, layout, and voice are just some of the things that all go into making annual reports that are not only easily understandable, but that people enjoy reading. A few weeks ago, we hosted a webinar (link to webinar at the bottom of the post) with our nine-and-a-half steps to making your data delicious and how to take your annual reports from "yuck" to "yum." Throughout the webinar, we surveyed attendees to get a better idea of their annual report practices and pains. Here's a breakdown of what we asked and the answers we received. They shed some light on current practices, and help to figure out what the future holds for annal reports.

Question 1: Does your annual report allow people to understand and act on the data?
We found that most people are dissatisfied to some extent with the clarity in their reports. It's not a new finding: confusion created by data has been discussed in multiple business and tech journal articles, and demonstrates the need for clear, concise, and direct communication in annual reports (skip to 6:22 in the video for more on using language effectively in reports).

Question 2: Is color used effectively?
If you're a long-time reader of the Juice blog, you'll know that color has meaning and is essential when sharing information. We found that most people use color in their annual reports, but realize that it's an important tool and want to know more about how best to utilize it. For more on the subject check out Juice's collection of design principles, many of which focus on color use in reporting.

Question 3: Do you see utility in using an online, interactive annual report?
The results of this question were overwhelming: attendees preferred online, interactive reporting over more traditional methods such as Excel or PowerPoint and printed reports. While there are different pros and cons to making the switch to online annual reports, it's important to note that in a few years online annual reports could be the standard (see more on the subject by skipping to 29:20).

If you'd like to talk more about annual reports, or data reporting in general, we're always around to chat. Take a look at your schedule and set up a time that works for you, or send us a message at Happy reporting!