Effective Report Design: a step-by-step guide
The design of reports can be considered from two aspects: layout and system. You may have seen many articles emphasize how to improve the layout of the report. Today, let’s learn the report designing from the perspective of the report system. No matter what type of report you’re designing, with the guidelines below, your report will catch your boss’s eyes.
1.The Basics of Report Designing
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.
- Why- Why designing this report?
- What- What information 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.
e.g., If the topic is ‘income,’ the reports will involve the source of revenue, what factors affect income, income trends, whether KPI of the cycle can be achieved.
e.g., If you focus on user growth, you can sort through the user categories, the key metrics of each AARRR phases, the results of products or operational activities related to user growth, ROIs, and so on.
e.g., If you focus on the channel entry, you will pay attention to the metrics associated with channel quality such as traffic, conversion rates, user value, ROI, etc.,
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 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 the 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 reporting 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.
2.3 Analyze the data on the report to correspond to the fields of the underlying database table
In this step, you should pay attention to:
- The data on the report comes from which field of which table?
- Whether the data is 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, a quarterly report by quarter, monthly reports by month.
2.5 Choose the elements to display the data.
- How is the data presented in the report? Tables or charts?
- If it is tabular, using the row to list, column to list, or cross to list?
- If it is a chart report, using the pie chart, bar chart, line chart or some other charts?
Here, you can refer to the Top 16 Types of Chart in Data Visualization or Top 7 Most Common Data Visualization Types: How to Choose and Design to select the proper charts.
2.6 Modify the details of the reports
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 designed?
- Publish to the reports management platform or the mobile terminal?
- Does it need to 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 design software 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, budget report in the meeting. This kind of report design software such as Canva will be your good choice.
Another type of report design software 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.
4. Benefits of designing reports with FineReport
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 makes anyone can quickly create a web report without additional learning or code knowledge.
4.2 Flexible report design choice
There are three types of reports that 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
- Dashboard: you can drag-and-drop the components to design your dashboard on a canvas-like interface
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.