The Importance of Reporting Design when Converting to ESEF

Wrong fonts, misaligned amounts, low quality images and an overall poor visual appearance are among the most common graphical mistakes when converting your annual report to ESEF. You need to pay attention to the design of your ESEF report, but what should you pay attention to – and why?

There has been a lot of talk about the design elements when it comes to ESEF reporting. But because aesthetics and visual design aren’t part of the ESEF requirements, design details are often overlooked in the conversion process. They shouldn’t be, however. We’ve helped hundreds of companies convert their annual reports to ESEF, and we always make sure they look perfect.

In this article we’ll talk about the three design elements that are most often overlooked when converting annual reports to ESEF, but first we’ll dive into why reporting design is important in the first place.

The Four Benefits of Good Reporting Design

Traditionally annual reports were printed out in booklets and mailed to board members and stakeholders, but with the digital age many companies started providing access to interactive PDF-versions of their annual reports online.

Presenting your annual reports not only to authorities and stakeholders but with a public audience in mind as well, has a vast number of benefits, but it also means you need to focus more on the design of your report. You need to create a report that people not only have to read, they need to want to read it. 

Creating an annual report with a focus on design has 4 primary benefits:

  • It makes the information more accessible
  • It lets you emphasize your company brand
  • It lets you show off your business
  • It sets you apart from your competitors.

In short, if your annual report is distributed widely, it can accomplish so much more than just compliant reporting.

Using Your Annual Report as a Marketing Tool

Distributing your report to a wider audience means that more people will have access to the figures within, which is a good way to attract more investors. Putting your figures in front of more people, however, does not necessarily make them more accessible. Let’s be honest, for most people all numbers start to look the same after a while.

Adding pictures, graphics and other designed elements is a way to keep your reader engaged with the content of your report. At the same time, you can use the graphic elements as a way to put your brand in front of the reader.

Further, when you write the non-financial recap of your company’s year, don’t just state the facts and move on. Your annual report can be a great marketing tool. It can market your business to stakeholders, so they will continue to support you, and it can be used to attract new investors as well.

Taking the time to document your business on regular workdays throughout the year allows stakeholders and investors to learn how your company operates at its core. You can also take the time to not only introduce the executive board, but provide background information, so your stakeholders truly get to know the leaders of your company. Really thinking about the visual and narrative design of your annual report is a great way to set you apart from your competitors.

This is all very well, but what does it have to do with converting your annual reports to ESEF, you might ask.

ESEF Requirements and Reporting Design when Converting to ESEF

ESMA’s ESEF mandate requires a lot from your annual report. For instance, both humans and machines need to be able to read your report, but there is no requirement saying that your report needs to be visually appealing.

Because of this some ESEF providers will gloss over mistakes related to the visual appeal of your report. After all, it doesn’t make the report any less compliant. This can manifest as images of a lower quality than in the PDF-version of your report, it might be a font that is a little different than what you chose and in some cases it may even lead to your ESEF report looking like a plain list of headers, labels and numbers with no visual elements what so ever.

Settling for this won’t make your report any less compliant, but it will eliminate all the benefits of a beautifully designed report, and it certainly won’t set you apart from the competition.

If you just want to be compliant, then you don’t really need to do anything other than having your report converted, but if you want to reap the benefits of the beautiful design you’ve made for your report, there are a couple of things you need to check after your report is converted.

Three Things You Need to Check after Converting to ESEF

To help you make your ESEF report as perfect as possible, we’ve compiled a list of the most common issues that occur after converting. None of these issues will make you non-compliant, but that still doesn’t make them go away.

We go over a lot of things, when we verify the visual quality of reports we convert, but no matter who you’ve chosen as your vendor, we recommend that you at least ask yourself these three questions after your report has been converted.

  • Are the images in the same quality as they were in the PDF version of your report?
  • Is your font consistent throughout the entire report?
  • Are the amounts in your report aligned properly?

If your images aren’t in the same quality as in your PDF, they may have been reduced in size as part of the conversion process. This is usually not an issue, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for pixelated images or graphs.

Inconsistent or wrong fonts is probably one of the most commonly unnoticed mistakes in report conversion. Many filers and even providers miss it entirely, but you need to take a close look at your fonts and make sure they are correct – especially if you have used a custom font in your report.

After the conversion, the amounts in your report may be a little bigger or misaligned, and you should make sure it’s corrected.

Choosing the Proper Tools for Good Design

This short list of what you should look out for when you’re converting your reports to ESEF is in no way exhaustive. Luckily none of what we’ve touched upon is difficult to correct, and depending on the solution you’ve chosen, your ESEF provider may be able to help you out.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can improve the results of your ESEF conversion, feel free to contact us and we’ll have one of our experts get back to you, or you can read more about ESEF reporting here.