The UX of Reports

Bring productivity in the heart of your activity reports and joy in your clients’ one.

As a ser­vice provider it is very like­ly that you have to reg­u­lar­ly write and pro­vide activ­i­ty reports to your clients. As a client, it is very like­ly you have to read some.

Read­ing reports is usu­al­ly seen as a bor­ing activ­i­ty. Reports sort of gen­er­ate bore­dom by nature. I mean, nobody comes back home after a hard work­ing day like:
— How was your day, sug­ar?
— Well, it’s gone GREAT! Been read­ing activ­i­ty reports from ser­vice providers all day long, it was FANTASTIC!

No need to say, pro­vid­ing drugs to your read­ers so that at the end of the day “It’s FANTASTIC” is def­i­nite­ly not an option.

The use of clear typog­ra­phy and a min­i­mal, one-col­umn lay­out design ease the report’s inges­tion. Yet it’s not going to erase the inher­ent bore­dom. So, how can you opti­mise your read­ers’ effi­cien­cy, give them a quick way to assim­i­late infor­ma­tion and com­plete con­se­quent required actions?

Let’s find out!

First off, you’d bet­ter head to Fly­er­man­n’s Vault of Docs and

Down­load Your Report Boil­er­plate

It’s a 100% free, ready for use tem­plate that will allow you to craft read­er-cen­tered, high­ly effec­tive reports!

Your read­ers will thank you for min­imis­ing the impact of your writ­ten releas­es on their own pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and time. You’ll thank your­self for get­ting the feed­back you require to pur­sue your tasks, on time.
Of course you may use the sys­tem as is — or not, it’s not a uni­ver­sal panacea. It’s your panacea’s foun­da­tion. A foun­da­tion you’re going to improve to per­fect­ly tai­lor it to your require­ments. First,

Use A Recurring Structure Pattern

through­out the whole report. Even if you choose a sto­ry­telling approach when writ­ing reports (yes, you can do that to kill bore­dom), remem­ber your read­ers don’t want to be dis­tract­ed — or even worse, annoyed — by the shape you give to your writ­ing. By struc­tur­ing your writ­ing with sim­ple repeat­ed pat­terns, you’ll help them relax and browse it with ease and rapid­i­ty.

When it comes to Fly­er­man­n’s activ­i­ty reports, I cut them into pieces called sec­tions. Sec­tions are like the atoms of the doc­u­ment. Fly­er­man­n’s typ­i­cal sec­tion is made of:

  1. a Title
  2. the Main Con­tent 
  3. a Close: it may be just an infor­ma­tive digest or may con­tain a Call To (Read­er’s) Action.

It is of course up to you to add more hier­ar­chy and struc­ture

  1. into your doc by fil­ing sec­tions into e.g. chap­ters,
  2. into your sec­tions by cut­ting them into more pieces (e.g. split­ting their main con­tent in two, like 1. Sum­ma­ry and 2. Body),

As long as you stay con­sis­tent and always repeat the same pat­terns. Now that your struc­ture’s good, let’s

Bring In Signage

Fly­er­man­n’s activ­i­ty reports use mean­ing­ful visu­al ele­ments — colours and sym­bols — to pro­vide eye­’s guid­ance and help the read­er focus on the right thing. The right thing being the pieces of infor­ma­tion that are of pri­ma­ry impor­tance.

Think of it as sig­nage.
My read­ers know in a snap what’s hot and what’s cool. They have the (illu­sion of) choice to address what’s hot first — or not — and leave the cool stuff for lat­er — or not.

Colours and sym­bols also allow to make any required action from the read­er stand out, like, “your approval need­ed on that pecu­liar one” or “would you please sched­ule a call on … so that we …?”.

Prac­ti­cal­ly, There are two ele­ments in your doc­u­men­t’s sec­tions where you’re going to bring in sig­nage and mean­ing­ful col­ors: the section’s Title and Close.

The Title’s visu­al aspect depends on the sta­tus of the project / task / user sto­ry the sec­tion is about:

The Close’s dis­play depends

  1. whether the section’s end­ing is just infor­ma­tive or requires an action from the read­er,
  2. on the urgency and crit­i­cal­i­ty of the required action.

It’s that sim­ple and min­i­mal. Try it out, squeeze it or stretch it to fit your needs while keep­ing its straight­for­ward sim­plic­i­ty. And by the way, do not use ani­mat­ed GIFs in your activ­i­ty reports.

Down­load Your Free Boil­er­plate

Be see­ing you,
Laird Max­im­i­lien, design­er and busi­ness con­sul­tant @ Fly­er­mann

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