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Digital Annual Reports: impress beyond the PDF

by Jess Gunawardana
on 3 Aug, 2020 5 min read

If you are yet to try an online format for your business’ Annual Report, you may be approaching it with some mixed feelings. For many businesses, the pandemic has meant that a lot of traditionally tactile publications have had to be redesigned for online delivery. How then do you ensure that your premiere publication of the year doesn’t lose its gravitas in the conversion to digital?

If you don’t want to relegate your Annual Report to the lower tiers of your website, here’s a few suggestions to make sure you give your most important financial artefact the reverence and reach it deserves.

Types of digital Annual Reports

Downloadable Annual Reports

An online PDF is one of the easiest ways to digitise the more familiar, published format of an Annual Report. It’s portable, printable on demand and offers your stakeholders an accessible option to review your material.

While PDF’s easability may appeal to the content author and some stakeholders, it has its limitations and can make for poor online readability if it hasn’t been designed specifically for this purpose. In our mobile-driven world, small screen accessibility is of paramount importance, so it’s vital to ensure these form factors when designing your Annual Report experience.

Some of the key considerations we think about when designing a digital Annual Report are as follows.

  • Legibility. Aim to avoid using columns and instead make room for larger text and images that can convey your narrative in an easier to navigate manner.
  • Scannability. You’ll want to gear your content to screen reading habits. Ensure there’s lots of “white” space to give the eyes a natural place to rest between text, and divvy up chunks of copy into call outs and subheadings to help direct readers to key points.
  • Clickability. Make good use of linked content throughout your document. You may want to create a clickable table of contents, or build into your pages a persistent navigation function on your PDF so readers can click to the sections they want to see quickly and easily.
  • Flipability. Some of our clients like to have ready made reader options for their Annual Reports and with popular programs like ISUU or Flipbooks you can convert and embed these into your websites seamlessly. Be sure to include an optimised, downloadable PDF option for readers who want to view the Annual Report in their own PDF readers.
  • Printability. If your cohort is likely to print off copies of their Annual Report, consider offering a shorter, print-friendly version of your publication with just the essential information included. You may also want to consider a condensed version with limited images and colour to reduce ink wastage.

Dynamic Annual Reports

The nature of information sharing has evolved, and to stay relevant the presentation of your Annual Report should follow suit. Forget plain images and dull blocks of text – a dynamic Annual Report that functions as an integrated part of your website or as a microsite can deliver a superior user experience, whilst enabling you and your reader greater control of the information.

With your Annual Report hosted online you can:

  • Embed multimedia and audible elements to tell a deeper story. Videos are a great way to showcase messages from the CEO, treasurer and board as they provide a more concise explanation for your audience and are easy to digest. See how Volvo Cars leave a lasting favourable impression with video in their 2018 report.
  • Make use of dynamic content that will hold your audience’s attention for longer. A PDF is often a static file, but a digital Annual Report can include various animations and interactions within it. Take a look at the various CTAs in the digital Annual Report we designed for CCMC.
  • Unlock data about your audience such as, how long they read it for, what pages they visited and what wasn’t effective. This hard data can help improve your chance of creating more engaging reports and targeting the right channels for growing your readership.
  • Drive traffic to your website. Utilise web best practice tools like focused keywords and SEO-driven content to improve your search engine rankability and user experience.

Shareworthy Annual Reports

Annual Reports aren’t always known for being the most entertaining of artefacts and getting your readers to read them from cover to cover can sometimes be an exercise in futility.

So if you can’t get them to read your content, perhaps you could consider serving it to them on their preferred social media platforms. There’s a plethora of current and emerging platforms for you to exercise your creativity – and we’d love to help you to do just that.

Here’s a few thought starters:

  • One page Annual Reports will allow you to serve up key information as a printable, aesthetically pleasing poster or an easy to follow, impactful Infographic which you can share widely on your owned channels.
  • Promote your achievements on your social media channels as a series of posts. Use eye catching gallery, photo grids and carousel features native to Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to highlight key performance metrics and milestones for the year that was.
  • Design it as a dynamic experience. With the full might of a digital creative studio and a little bit of bravado, you can transform your annual review into breathtakingly engaging experiences. We love this example by Hiscar and would love to work with a client who is equally keen to break conventions with us!
  • Record key highlights as a video or animation. Turn dry data into a compelling, fully narrated story. Merging audio, textual and graphical elements, alongside footage and animation can offer you an immersive way to tell your annual review.
  • Serve important details as a Q&A chatbot. If customer service and responsiveness are core principles of your brand, you could consider chatbots as a way to serve stakeholders answers in real time. Interested in this – ask us how!

Whether you venture into the world of digital Annual Reports by introducing a PDF version of your printed report, or you go all-in with a well-developed microsite, it will speak to how forward thinking, and invested your brand is in your audience and stakeholders.

Need help with your Annual Report?

Delivering your organisation’s Annual Report is a daunting task and if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed we’ve created resources to help you get on track and deliver a report beyond your stakeholders’ expectations.

Take a look at some of our Annual Reports case studies, or get in touch with us to see more:

We can help you to achieve more with your Annual Report this year.

Our team of graphic designers, web developers, content writers and publication strategists can help you maximise your audience’s engagement with fully integrated and interactive communications and designs. Visit our Annual Report design packages to see how we can deliver your next marketing asset.


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