Annual Report Trends to Watch in 2016

Posted / 06 November, 2015

Author / Enginess

Annual reports – either a stodgy block of charts and figures, or a beautiful summation of your year of blood, sweat, and tears.

With Q4 upon us, and the end of the year rapidly closing in, we thought we’d look at what you can expect from online annual reports in 2016.

Beauty is better

This is more of a continuation of annual report trends, but increasingly they’re seen equally as a reporting tool and a marketing one. For example, Warby Parker’s annual report (above) went viral in 2011 and drove their three highest sales days ever. And with everyone’s passion for the infographic, it’s hardly surprising that annual reports are now firmly in the marketing camp.

So we think that going forward, there’s definitely going to be more and more time, design, and passion put into annual reports, representing not only how the company is doing but also representing the company brand and ethos.

Creative solutions

Despite everyone’s best efforts to make them exciting and interesting, annual reports remain largely very dry affairs. The scripted structure, while great for allowing comparisons between companies, isn’t so great for retaining any form of engagement or interest.

So for 2016, we predict that there’s going to be a lot more creativity in how companies choose to present their progress online. Not only does online give a lot more room for creativity, but with more and more demand for beautiful solutions online, we think that annual reports are soon going to be works of art.

More movement

Over the summer we profiled a web design trend we noticed making a splash: movement. Movement is taking the web world by storm with gifs, background videos, and animation. We think that we’re going to be seeing a lot more of that in annual reports as well.

Single-page responsive annual reports

No, not everything on one page. Just that if you keep scrolling, you’ll hit the next section, rather than having to have a menu with the various sections on it. Why? Mobile first design.

For an example, check out CPA’s recent annual report.

CPA ontario annual report

It’s a lot easier to scroll on a phone then it is to click on a little hamburger to expand the menu to find what you want to get to where you need to go.  Better to just read, sit back, and flick your thumb casually every so often.

With traffic moving towards phones for websites, it’s unreasonable to expect traffic patterns to be wildly different for online annual reports.

So we think that a lot of companies, to make it easy for phone users, will use a single-page responsive web design for their online annual reports as well.

Continued interactivity

Even back in 2013, people were talking about how amazing interactive reports were. Well, we see no reason to disagree with popular demand.

We think that the need for companies to produce reports that are actually engaging and fun to consume is what’s going to drive report readership and thus report design in 2016. We also think that combining more movement with more interactivity is going to produce some really amazing results.

capstone infrastructure 2014 annual report

For example, imagine if you had a complex financial product. You probably have an extremely dry annual report, no matter how many stock photos you intersperse into it.

Now, imagine that you could tell the story of your annual report with an interactive website that helps people choose their own path through the information, perhaps with clever and cute animations to really drive your point home.

In fact, we think that we’ll even see some of our first parallax scrolling annual reports this year, using scroll speed to walk the user through the story.

Better story telling

Which actually brings us nicely to our last point. We think that above all else, we’re going to see a huge injection of storytelling in annual reports. No longer simply just a place to print the hard numbers of your business, it’s now a place for you to convey the core of your company.

Plus, storytelling is actually a highly efficient way to carry information forward, so shareholders are more likely to pay attention if your message is wrapped in a story.

And finally, with movement, creative solutions, single page responses, and interactivity, story tellers have more tools at their disposal than ever before.

Wrap up

Annual reports are hardly something most people get excited about, and in some cases are only treated as a legal necessity. But increasingly, brands see annual reports as a chance to really celebrate their successes, and weave a story of what they’ve been doing over the previous 12 months.

With online annual reports becoming more and more common, we think that this year they’ll start to embrace general web trends: more creativity, more movement, mobile-friendly, and more interactive.

But that’s just what we think. What about you? Have any thoughts on the direction of annual reports? Comment below!

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