What Makes A Great Year in Review?

A list of our most favourite digital annual report content elements for 2017

Almost everyone produces a Year-In-Reivew and most of those still get printed and handed out at the AGM.

We get that, in some circumstances, a Year-In-Review is just a legal or regulatory requirement…but there are plenty of creative ways to take your annual report from being a bunch of waterfall charts and complicated tables into something customers, employees, shareholders and the media will engage with and enjoy.

Something fun, informative and shareable that actually tells a story about your organisation. A way to communicate to people about what you’ve done and why. This post is about what we think makes an annual report in a digital experience worth your time and effort.

If you’ve been considering or trying to convince the powers that be your annual report is ready for an interactive, digital transformation into a Year-In-Review then let me help you out a little.

This is a quick rundown of some of the amazing things that you can use to tell an interactive, data-driven story.

A Clear Story

If 2017 is anything, it the year of the corporate story. That means in the couple of minutes a user might engage with your annual report, make sure that the first part (which they’ll see) has an interesting story. Tell them what you did, why you listened, who you helped, how you changed because of those things.

It’s sharp, short and interesting. Use animation or infographics and transitions to move the users through the content and keep it high level, with the ability to move further in if it’s of interest.

The main thing is to make sure it’s relevant and doesn’t try to give too much detail, just an overview.


Nothing unusual here but CEO and Board members have been staring down the barrel of a camera reading out the same message that then gets published on the annual report landing page, just before you get a chance to download the PDF versions. This chestnut has been the go to since we went ‘digital’.

Not that that’s a bad thing if done well. But be wary about putting people on camera who are not comfortable or engaging (which is the majority of us mere mortals). If you do, try letting overlays and animations take some of the presentation burdens from the ‘talent’. If not, a great producer will help…but they can’t make boring interesting, so be cautious because if you film it, you’ll have to either use it or have a very awkward conversation with someone…

Lastly, try an interview format rather than reading from cards as a simple fix.

Data & Insight

Let’s face it, the annual report is going to contain financial metrics and data. If you want to continue the engagement with customers, clients, staff, investors and shareholders all the way through then don’t fall into the old habit of making the financials boring.

I’m not saying get ‘creative’ with the numbers… but get a little creative with the layout, information hierarchy and always summarise, then allow the interested user an ability to dive deeper — i.e. download a pdf report.

The best two ways we’ve seen this dealt with is interactive charts that save on page space and allow the users to look for what they want to see. The second one is animation or motion graphics. If they want to watch they can, if not they’ll move on and everyone is happy.

Animation, Clever Navigations, Brilliant Interactions

One thing we know is that web users are fickle. They bounce, lose interest, open other tabs, take a phone call, get a message; all when they’re supposed to be reading the CFO’s message to investors.

How do you keep their attention, get them where they would like to go and make the experience as intuitive and painless as possible?

You do it with good navigation. Navigation that is clear and simple but also engaging. That means it can use transitions or give a clear indication of where you are on a page and how much further you have to go.

Add to that mix, interactions and animations which will keep interest moving through the site, signal where key points are and allow the user to dive deep when they want to.

What About Reporting Requirements?

We get that organisations have a requirement to report on financials. We know that it has its place and we ourselves, still make the ‘all-essential’ pdf report — filled with the tables and charts of an accountant’s dream — to support an interactive report project.

What we’re doing here is a balance though and doesn’t need to be seen through the eyes and outcomes of a traditional annual report.

Think of the Year In Review as being a partially marketing, some HR, a little PR … and then finance exercise.

If you want people to engage with it and listen to what you have to say, then it needs to be more than what your annual report has been.

How To Proceed?

Here are our tips to find the balance in the organisation to make sure everyone gets on the right path.

Take time to understand the user and if they really care about what you care about. This will help you to avoid telling stories and reporting on things that miss the mark.

It’s a business (usually). Financials are important but they don’t need to be everything. For those that are ‘that way inclined’, let them get into the data or the detail, but avoid making the heavy details your focus.

The year in review is shorter than any annual report you’ve produced.

Originally published at www.datalabsagency.com on May 16, 2017.