A mini guide to online reporting
Creating targeted, effective
communications for today’s
online reporting world
As a design agency with
a 14 year track record in
financial reporting, we’ve
worked with companies
across a wide variety of
sectors and listings on their
printed and online annual
reports – building up a huge
bank of experience on how
to deliver effective, creative
The introduction of the default
to electronic communications
with shareholders has generated
opportunities and challenges. An online
annual report can provide a lively and
informative way to bring your annual
report to life, reducing print runs and
presenting the expanding volume
of information required in a more
accessible format. However, we are
Steve Kemp still in a period of transition and many
Director shareholders still want to receive a hard
copy annual report leaving companies
with potentially two projects to
complete – in the same tight timescales
with the same limited resources. So,
for many smaller companies, a well
structured and designed printed
annual report supported by a PDF
on the investor website is a sensible
option. We have a genuine passion for
interpreting our clients’ business stories
through clear, engaging design and
messaging, and we believe that this is
the most important aspect of financial
reporting – whatever the medium.
That said – it’s a fast changing world
and a strong online presence is
essential to effective shareholder
communications, so this booklet is
a collection of some initial thoughts
which aim to help you with your
online reporting. We’d be delighted
to discuss these further with you.
Our top ten tips Break down
long blocks of text
Plan on making
the report as clear and
intuitive as possible to navigate by
adding in quick links to other relevant
into shorter sections sections. Also add a search facility on
with sub-headings to each page to help visitors move around
To b make them easier to
u the site quickly to find a specific
repo ild a n en read on screen. Make sure there is a
sta n d t tha t m a g in g onl piece of information or follow ‘ rinter friendly pages’
th e b a rds, sta ets best e a nnua l a particular theme. feature including the
pro c eg inn in g o t pla nn in pra ctice option to print sections.
eigh t ss. You f your a n for this
w eek n eed n
onlin s fo to a l ua l repo a t
e l r
en ou a nnua l r r a full H ow a rou t
g e nd
a n d t h time fo port to TML
g bef r con ten ua ra n tee
ore it t lo a Consider including PDF
g o es din g
live. stitcher functionality to
allow users to customise Take full advantage of the
their own annual report. For a more cost
effective, functional option, medium - present data in
consider producing an HTML multiple formats, consider
front section, with the video for commentary on
financials in PDF form. the results by the CEO
or Chairman, allow access
D on to a glossary from within
onl ’ t for the text and include a
Adopt a multi-channel n ee n e a nn g et th download centre for each
strategy for your reporting a cc ds to ua l re a t th e
f section. Do not provide
to make sure the content as essibil ollow port
you i over-complex functionality
for your online and printed r m ty sta th e sa
a in n that has no use to
versions is consistent. w e b da rds m e Make sure every section and
site page can be read out of order your target audience.
Layout, however, .
– website visitors will browse
does not have to
information rather than read
through sequentially, so cross
referencing, use of breadcrumb
trails to highlight location
and a well-thought-out
structure are all important
ways of facilitating this.
Landing page Website accessibility
The main menu page or introductory To comply with UK legislation, all
page of a new section. Tracking shows websites must be fully accessible
that landing pages experience heavy for equal access to information and
traffic, with users spending the most services to all users, including those
amount of time on these pages, so make with visual, hearing, cognitive and
sure that they are particularly impactful. motor impairments. An example is
of online reporting PDF stitcher
A PDF stitcher allows the user to build
providing the transcript to a webcast
presentation to ensure that deaf
people can access the content.
or ‘stitch’ together the sections of the
online annual report that they would Web analytics
like as a single PDF. Customising An advantage of having an online HTML
the annual report in this way offers annual report is that you can track
flexibility and increased usability. which web pages are looked at most
by using web analytics software.
RSS content feeds
Anchor links Browser Really Simple Syndication (RSS) XBRL
Hyperlinks that go to a specific area Ensure that your website works feeds are web feed formats that XBRL stands for eXtensible Business
in a web page, making it easy for the for different internet browsers make it easy for users to keep in Reporting Language. Rather than treating
user to navigate information quickly. (especially Firefox, Internet touch with you by alerting them financial information as e.g. an internet
Explorer and Google Chrome). when information is updated. page or a printed document, it provides
Audio / video webcasts an identifying tag for each individual item
‘Broadcasting’ over the internet allows Intuitive information Search engine optimisation of data, which is computer readable.
you to provide a wider audience with architecture / Usability Ensure maximum exposure to your This makes the preparation, analysis and
access to presentations and shareholder The way the content in your online online report by optimising the content communication of business information
meetings. It’s also a useful way to annual report is ordered and therefore for search engines so that it appears far more efficient, accurate and reliable.
communicate with investors outside searched is imperative to a good online at top of page rankings. Choose a
the standard financial calendar. annual report. It is advisable to include straightforward URL name, such
multiple ways of navigation, such as as http://www.annualreport2009.
Breadcrumb trail the search function, quick links, ‘email company, which uses a sub-domain of
Including a breadcrumb trail at the to a friend’, print and download. the main website; or http://company.
top of each page (e.g. Home > Annual com/ar_2009/, where it is simply
Report > Corporate Governance> another section of the website.
Remuneration Report) helps visitors to
navigate your online report more easily.
We’ve included some Excellent ‘best practice’ guides
useful sources of additional www.ir-soc.org.uk/
information. Guidelines on web accessibility
Web auditing, benchmarking and certification
Measuring website effectiveness
Low & Bonar
Extensive internal links make navigating the online
annual report comparable to browsing through a
printed version. Remember you won’t have page
numbers, so replace these with appropriate words
and hyperlinks to aid navigation within the site.
Graphs are a highly effective and engaging
way of communicating key facts and
figures, as well as complex information.
It is recommended that you sign off
the site map as early as possible when
creating dual language online annual
reports to ensure that enough space is
available to accommodate different word
lengths, e.g. English versus German.
Imagery is a powerful tool to help
communicate the company’s values.
Simple navigation makes the online annual
report as user-friendly as possible.
A full download centre makes it easy for users
to take away the sections they need.
Northumbrian Water Group
Anchor links make complex
information easily accessible.
Selective functionality, such as
interactive maps, can really bring
the online annual report to life.
Steve Kemp Neil Reynolds
Zetland House 32 Castle Street
5-25 Scrutton Street Edinburgh
London EH2 3HT
T: +44 (0)131 220 7990
T: +44 (0)20 7729 9090 F: +44 (0)131 220 7999
F: +44 (0)20 7729 9091
Studio 11 The Cogent Works
50/54 St Paul’s Square
T: +44 (0)121 262 3830
F: +44 (0)121 262 3839