So I’ve heard a lot of disdain for long reports over the years. They’re easy targets and get picked on often (even I take a shot every now and again).
But here’s a secret. I actually kind of like them (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone).
It’s not for the reading, I can barely even make it through a long blog post, but for the incredible opportunity that long reports provide for designers like myself.
Here, let me explain.
What is the goal?
The goal for a long evaluation report is usually to provide a systematic comprehensive review of the evaluation and its findings. This means lots of detail on questions, methods, evidence, findings, and recommendations.
The report needs to be strong enough to stand up to challenges. And in such an important and often politicized field, evaluations will face challenges. We are talking about value, merit and worth here, that’s always contentious stuff.
Who is the primary audience?
Most of the time there are two.
- The primary evaluation client. Who often require, sometimes by statute, lots of detail and context. Even when they pine for simple.
- The evaluation team. The comprehensive report writing process is a vetting and sensemaking process. It’s often where an evaluation comes together for an entire team.
The problem is that far too many evaluation teams and clients take the final comprehensive report as being the thing for the public. Kind of like saying…
“Here you go large diverse audience, read this long boring report.”
But it’s a horrible experience for lots of those audiences. So horrible that many users will avoid almost anything with a “report” label.
Some of the audiences that won’t like it…
- People who use their smart phone to read things
- People who use their tablet to read things
- Casual report readers
- “Visual” people
- People with specific needs from the report
- People who are generally overwhelmed by the massively overwhelming nature of our overwhelming contemporary society
- Politicians (sure they won’t be happy without the comprehensive, but they likely won’t read)
- Nonprofit board members (see politicians)
- Social mediaites
- Your family
- Your boss
- People who don’t like evaluation jargon
- People with short attention spans
- Some members of the evaluation team
- Many members of the client organization
- People who write long random lists
- Most other people
What if we’re looking at it the wrong way?
What if the final comprehensive report is just a step in the reporting process? And one that doesn’t come at the end.
Let’s look at what we have, which is 200 pages of heavily vetted public evaluation findings, data and evidence.
For someone like me, a user experience designer who has spent well over a decade as a researcher and evaluator, the final comprehensive report is a bumper crop. Ready to be harvested and transformed into high value products.
With just a little adaptation (and really, it only takes a little sometimes) we can turn the long boring comprehensive report into countless:
- Blog posts
- Social media images
- Social media posts
- Interactive reports
- Automated email sequences
- Explainer videos
- Motion videos
- Visual paper reports
- Kid’s books
- And other stuff most evaluators are not used to creating.
Have an important report that very few people are reading?
Let’s talk about using my UX design process to turn it into something of value for all of your audiences.
If I haven’t convinced you, and if you still think we shouldn’t create these behemoth reports, let me know in the comments.