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Methodologie Best Practices Guide: Designing PDF Reports

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As more and more organizations shift to sustainable practices, they are choosing to forego printing annual reports and sustainability reports and opting to produce more interactive PDFs and microsites.

Methodologie took a deeper look at the process of designing electronic reports, with a focus on the PDF format. We explored what drives the decision to go digital, as well as what design and print considerations to keep in mind.

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  1. 1. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports The Methodologie Best Practices Guide Designing PDF Reports prepared by methodologie in 2009
  2. 2. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Is print the only way to go? As more and more organizations shift to sustainable practices, they are choosing to forego printing annual reports and sustainability reports and opting to produce more interactive PDFs and microsites. Methodologie took a deeper look at the process of designing electronic reports, with a focus on the PDF format. We explored what drives the decision to go digital, as well as what design and print considerations to keep in mind. 02
  3. 3. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Why are Top drivers: companies moving to 1. Conserve natural resources electronic reports? 2. Cost considerations 3. New regulations, such as Notice and Access, are requiring online reporting 4. Ability to reach a wider audience 03
  4. 4. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports If not print, then what? Option 1* PDF report A PDF posted on your website, either (static / interactive) in a clickthrough navigable form or a downloadable form. Option 2* A section of your website or a separate Online report microsite dedicated to the report. The report could be flash or html. This approach requires consideration of printability. *Many companies choose to offer a PDF as well as an online report. 04
  5. 5. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports What’s the best Beyond the primary considerations of time and budget, here are some questions to ask when trying to decide the best format for your project. choice? A PDF or a website? 1. What do you want your report to do? 2. What features does each format allow for? 3. How will the report be viewed? 05
  6. 6. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports PDF vs. website: Interactive Features PDF Website Ability to create an encompassing / complete experience x x Embedded videos x x Embedded sound x x Navigation links x x Jump links x x Links to relevant pages within document x x 06
  7. 7. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports PDF vs. website: Viewing Options PDF Website Launch full screen x x View in browser x x Ability to download document x View offline x Ease of printing entire document x Ease of printing page by page x x 07
  8. 8. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Think before It’s always smart to consider production before diving into design. Decide which format the final piece will live in first. you leap. Decide Design 08
  9. 9. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Reading a book is very different Why? from reading a PDF online. Design conventions for commercially printed and bound reports are based on the experience of a reader holding a book and turning pages, the qualities and expense of paper, the technical requirements of commercial printing, and the limitations of mailing. Conventional PDF reports generally have been identical to the printed report and created almost as an afterthought. When you remove the printed piece from the picture, it’s worth rethinking many assumptions about design, content, format, and so forth and making full use of the given media/format. 09
  10. 10. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Design considerations: Type size, color, layout, etc. Are these things only designers should think about? While PDFs and online reports offer a wide spectrum of functionality previously unavailable with print design, they also present some limitations. Understanding these limitations will help set the right expectations and ensure a smooth work process going forward. Here are some best practices. 10
  11. 11. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports 1. If it’s online, horizontal is better than vertical. Page Orientation Vertical orientation horizontal orientation Yes! avoid unnecessary scrolls. it’s seamless. the best use of real estate and shows the full picture. 11
  12. 12. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports 2. Type Size You don’t want your clients to go blind reading 100 pages like this. This is too small, even for footnotes. 12
  13. 13. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports nor do you want to yell at them. This is too big, even for headlines. 13
  14. 14. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Type size: Keep it readable. Screen size, contrast, and type size play a huge role in a reader’s comfort. And while zooming in is a useful feature of PDFs, ideally the design should be best viewed at 100% of its intended size. users should click by choice, not by compulsion. don’t make them over-click! 14
  15. 15. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Type size: Although ideal type sizes will vary depending on the typeface used, here are some general guidelines to follow. n Too small 7 pt Type Size Type Size 10 pt Good for footnotes Type Size 12 pt Body copy Type Size Body copy 14 pt Type Size Body copy/Pull quotes/Headers 16 pt Type Size 18 pt Pull quotes/Headers Type Size 20 pt Pull quotes/Headers Type Size Pull quotes/Headers 22 pt Type Size 24 pt Pull quotes/Headers Type Size Pull quotes/Headers 26 pt 15
  16. 16. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports 3. Color looks different on all monitors and printers. Accept that you can’t control it, and use color as a design element instead of a design driver. Color The majority of printers and monitors in use are not color-correct and, therefore, should not be relied on to reproduce color accurately. However, PDFs do allow for up to 100% accurate color reproduction on printers and monitors that have been color-calibrated and profiled. Most color on traditional web pages is not accurately reproduced, even on color-optimized systems, since only the Safari browser respects color profiles. Orange 1 Orange 2 Orange 3 16
  17. 17. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Color: Printing in color is expensive. 1 $ 30 5 $6 Inkjet Cost of each Average number Average price of a color cartridge printed copy. of letter-size full- cartridge. A standard bleed copies that desktop color printer needs a single cartridge at least four of these can print flawlessly. (C,M,Y, and K) to work. 17
  18. 18. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports 4. Plan for nonlinear navigation, especially if designing a PDF with interactive capabilities and features. Page Design most linear navigation nonlinear navigation ! likely - Common in printed books - Common in websites - Calls for pacing - Reader can navigate by subject/interest using jump links/related links 18
  19. 19. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Most desktop printers only 5. print letter size. Page Size Although oversized books have great impact, they only work if printed commercially. Desktop printers may shrink-to-fit all pages to letter size, and that in turn may affect type size and readability. It’s safest to assume the PDF will be printed, and that it will be printed letter size. 19
  20. 20. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports 6. When using full-bleed colors or images, be aware that desktop printers may shrink the design and produce a white margin around the piece. The design may not look as originally intended. Print Considerations Most 0.25quot; desktop printers are set to print with a 0.25quot; 0.25quot; margin. 20
  21. 21. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Other Print 1. Readers may print on one side or two. Considerations 2. Many organizations encourage or even mandate two-sided printing. 3. Image areas shouldn’t bleed, as many office printers require a nonprinting margin. 4. Low-resolution images open up more options. 5. Settings allow readers to view background colors on screen, but not necessarily print them. 6. On-demand printing reduces large print runs and gives the user the choice to print. 21
  22. 22. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports 7. Blocked! File Size OK! 10 mb 10 mb Even though the PDF report may be available online, the file size should be small enough to e-mail. Most mail servers block files bigger than 10 megabytes. Although there are several ways to reduce a file’s size, it’s best to use fewer, and relatively low-resolution, images in the design. 22
  23. 23. the methodologie best practices guide to designing pdf reports Contact: Shannyn Roberts, Marketing Director, shannyn.roberts@methodologie.com, 425.894.3698 23
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