Annual Report Design Best Practices: Think in Chunks

Every bit of information can be linked and contained in a way that makes it easy to understand.

facebook-2013-shopifyShopify is a fully managed commerce platform that helps online businesses establish themselves and provides retail point-of-sale systems for both online and offline companies. Shopify’s core features include the ability to manage products, inventory, customers, orders and discounts. Founded in 2004, the company reportedly has 150,000 merchants using its platform, with total gross merchandise volume exceeding $8 billion.

In the last couple of years, Shopify has published an interactive annual report that uses a deceptively minimalist format to pack in a lot of easily digestible data and interactive elements that highlight growth numbers and other important information.

Rather than stick with a single way to display each key business point, the report uses a combination of readable graphs, looping animations, linked images, and a timeline of events to communicate engaging information in easy-to-digest chunks. This process of information chunking is so effective it actually makes you want to go shopping. (Naturally, you can shop right from the report.)

What is Chunking?

Chunking refers to the strategy of breaking down information into bite-sized pieces so the brain can more easily digest new information. The reason the brain needs this assistance is because working memory, which is where we manipulate information, can only hold a limited amount of information at one time.

When you apply this design strategy to investor relations, every bit of information in an annual report can be linked and contained in a way that makes it easy to understand. By breaking down what is arguably the most complicated document in the life of a company into chunks of information (or chapters), a company’s story will have a more natural fit and flow.

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The BIG Takeaway?

Let the data inspire the design. What’s nice about chunk-style thinking is that is creates distinct visual organization. For the user, this makes information easy to skim or move through without having to read line by line.

Shopify exemplifies this method of thinking about information. With scrollable pages, color coded information and screens that don’t require you to read to the next page, every piece of information lives in a contained space. This makes the key facts easier to digest and understand. So if you need to explain something complex – something that requires your audience to hold several factors in mind to understand –  it’s best to chunk that information into bite-sized pieces.

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