The design of reports can be considered from two aspects: layout and system. You may have seen many articles emphasizing how to improve the report design.

Today, let’s learn the report design from the perspective of the report system. No matter what type of report you’re designing, it is of great importance to choose the right reporting software, with the guidelines below tell you all about how to design a professional report with powerful reporting software, so your report will catch your boss’s eyes. 

Project Dashboard (by FineReport)

Note: The report and dashboard examples in this article are all built-in templates made by FineReport, the leading BI reporting tool in the Asian-Pacific region.

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1. The Basics of Report Design 

Before designing the reports, the most important is to understand users’ demands, which is the basis of designing the reports. You can use ‘5W1H’ to refine the requirements.

before designing the report
Report design tutorials
  • Why- Why design this report? 
  • What- What information does this report need to cover?
  • Who- Who are the end-users?
  • When- When reading these reports? ( The frequency and the regular time)
  • Where- Where to publish and put this report?
  • How- How to design this report?

After you understand the requirements, you can start designing.

2. Report Design Guidelines

2.1 Clarify the Report Topic and KPIs

The core of the reports can be KPIs or some critical points in the project. These can be called the report topic. 

One of the report tasks is to “paint a picture” of a business topic with multiple associated metrics with a hierarchy. Take this as the first step when you start report designing.

For instance, when the topic is ‘income,’ the reports will cover the source of revenue, factors influencing income, income trends, and the achievement of key performance indicators (KPIs) within the cycle.

For instance, when concentrating on user growth, you can analyze user categories, key metrics in each AARRR phase, outcomes of products or operational activities linked to user growth, ROIs, and more.

For instance, when concentrating on the channel entry, you will emphasize metrics related to channel quality, such as traffic, conversion rates, user value, ROI, etc.

determine the KPI
Report KPI (from Google)

Different business scenarios have different business topics. The key indicators and report structures will also be different. But the train of thought is similar: 

  • What are the key metrics of KPIs to focus on in this scenario?
  • What factors influence these core indicators?
  • What links are involved in this scenario?
  • How do end-users read or use data?

After sorting out these four questions, it will be clear the indicators under the report subject and the structure of reports.

2.2 Determine the Source of Data 

  • Which database are the data from? ERP database? CRM database? Enterprise data warehouse?
  • What type of database? Oracle? MySql? SQL Server? BW? Hana? Greenplum?
  • What database tables are the data from? What kind of join relationships are these tables?

Here, I would recommend you use professional report software to support multiple databases. For example, FineReport supports all popular databases and allows you to integrate data from different sources. Therefore, wherever your data is in, you can conveniently combine these data to have a comprehensive view. 

FineReport supports multiple databases

2.3 Data Analysis for Report Field Mapping

In this step, you should pay attention to: 

  • The data on the report comes from which field of which table?
  • Whether the data directly from the corresponding fields of the database table? Or whether it needs to be processed, such as string interception or date format conversion.

2.4 Determine the Filtering Criteria

There is a large amount of business data in the database; if no filtering standards are added, all the business data will be extracted by default. If the data volume is large, the front-end tools will crash, and the database may also be down. Therefore, data filtering criteria need to be added to control the data range during report preparation.

Most reports have time filtering conditions, such as annual reports that need to be filtered by year, quarterly reports by quarter, and monthly reports by month.

Design report filtering criteria
Design report filtering (from FineReport)

One of the key features of FineReport‘s data filtering functionality is its ability to handle multiple filtering conditions simultaneously. This means that users can apply multiple filters to their data sets, based on a range of different criteria, to extract the specific information they need. Additionally, FineReport’s filtering tools are highly customizable, allowing users to define their filtering criteria and conditions based on their specific needs and requirements.

For example, users can filter data based on numerical ranges, date ranges, and text-based criteria, among others. FineReport also offers advanced filtering options, such as the ability to filter data based on calculated values, as well as more complex filtering options such as sub-queries and conditional filtering.

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2.5 Select Display Elements for Data Presentation

  • How is the data presented in the report? Tables or charts?
  • If it is tabular, use the row to list, column to list, or cross to list.
  • If it is a chart report, using a pie chart, bar chart, line chart, or some other chart?

Here, you can refer to the Top 16 Types of Chart in Data Visualization or Top 7 Most Common Data Visualization Types to select the proper charts.

Visualization Widgets and Components in report designing
Choose proper visual elements for reports

2.6 Modify the Details of Report Design

Does the data on the report involve some enhanced display, such as sorting, grouping, summarizing, ranking, and warning?

  • Should the data in the table be displayed in ascending or descending order according to some condition?
  • Does the data need to be categorized according to a condition that brings together data of the same attribute?
  • Does the data need to be summarized by category or as a whole?
  • Does the data in the table need to be formatted according to some criteria? For example, data above the specified threshold is highlighted with a green background, and data below the specified threshold is highlighted with a red background.

2.7 Where to Publish the Report After Design?

Think about this issue when designing the report, because you have to choose the right delivery based on the audience’s preferences.

  • Publish to the reports management platform or the mobile terminal?
  • Does it need to be sent regularly by email?
  • Does it need to be exported to other formats such as Word, Excel, and PDF?

3. Report Design Software

In general, there are two types of report design software. One is for the personal report. This type of reporting designer tool is suitable for creating a report with static data. When you’ve got the data you want to present, such as presenting an annual company report, sales report, or budget report in the meeting. This kind of report design software such as Canva will be your good choice.

report designing platform
From Canva

Another type of report designer is more professional. When you need to design reports for various departments to make reports of the company, the data is huge and dynamic, and the information has many dimensions. In this situation, professional report design software like FineReport is better.

report design software interface
Professional report design tool- FineReport
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4. Report Design Benefits: FineReport Advantages

Here are some additional benefits of using FineReport to design your report:

4.1 Easy to Use

The Excel-like interface and the drag-and-drop mode allow anyone can quickly create a web report without additional learning or code knowledge. 

The excel-like interface of FineReport

4.2 Flexible Report Design Choice

Three types of reports allow you to design reports of various functional styles to meet the needs of various data analysis scenarios.

  • General Report
  • Aggregation Report: an innovative design for you to create irregular reports freely
report design examples
Report designing
  • Dashboard: you can drag-and-drop the components to design your dashboard on a canvas-like interface 
report design template
Report designing

4.3 Cool Visualization Elements

FineReport provides 5 types of self-developed charts and more than 60 chart styles, mainly covering all the basic charts on the market, all of which are self-developed HTML5 charts with excellent dynamic effects and powerful interactive experience.

Visual elements in report designing (FineReport)

4.4 Rich Report Design Templates

Report templates that built-in the FineReport cover a variety of scenarios and industries. These templates are well-designed and free. You can see the demo or download the software to apply these templates.

5. Report Design Ideas(with Examples)

The report is an interface for presenting status and monitoring progress. Ensure reasonable logic, accurate data, and intuitive presentation are the keys to the dashboard. Some refreshing and intuitive report and dashboard design examples inspire you.

Designing the report layout with a clear priority is the first step.

Report design idea
Report designing idea (by FineReport)
Report design idea: dashboard
Report designing idea: dashboard (by FineReport)

If the overall background is dark, then if the text uses the same dark color, it will make them look inconspicuous, and the chart will have a dull feeling. Therefore, the text color of the report can be slightly adjusted. Change the text content to a lighter color and the chart to a somewhat brighter color. The effect will be much better.

Report design idea: dashboard
Report designing idea: dashboard (by FineReport)
Report designing idea: dashboard (by FineReport)

In addition, the purely static display makes people feel that the large screen lacks vitality. To this end, add some animation effects to the demo to enhance the engagement and visual perception of the template.

6. A Conclusion of Report Design

This article offers report design tutorials and guidelines, beginning with the ‘5W1H’ problem. Subsequently, in the process of designing criteria for publishing reports, you will navigate through seven essential steps.

At the same time, a craftsman must sharpen his tools to do his job. A good reporting tool can make report designing twice the result with half the effort. FineReport‘s report and dashboard visualization can meet the increasingly complex data analysis requirements. It is fast to get started and ultimately realizes low-code development, which greatly reduces the cost of visualization and truly realizes that everyone is a data analyst!

Last but not least, I am happy to inform you that the FineReport is entirely free for individuals. Why not download FineReport for a free trial?

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It’s free to make an appointment for a live demo with product experts from FineReport and work together to discover your needs and see how FineReport can help you and your organization better transform data into value.

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