So I had this idea in my head for a long time.
Given how the web has fundamentally changed the way we design and share information, eventually the new design methods will work their way into the evaluation world. Reports will change because the context has changed. And organizations will demand more from those that design their reports.
But I think I was wrong, at least on that last part.
I don’t think organizations are really demanding “more” from their evaluation report writers. They’re demanding less. Less pages, less words, less content, and ultimately less to read. And it just so happens that by demanding less, it makes creating high quality comprehensive reports a little bit harder. Because how do you fit all you need to say in just a handful of pages?
After decades as a researcher and evaluator, and a good chunk of years as an independent information designer, I think we need to change our mindset. It’s time to stop giving organizations at large credit for being contemporary or modern just because they are demanding less out of their individual reports.
Better evaluation reports are NOT driven by demand.
My inner skeptic tells me that the demand for shorter reports is often a demand for reports that are easier to ignore. Easier to just skim through and then toss in the trash, or more likely now-a-days, click away. It’s so much simpler to say you read the report when it was only 10 highly visual pages and not 100 text heavy pages.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an argument for creating long boring reports. I do believe as professional evaluators that we should be focused on creating minimum viable reports for all of our different audiences.
Just don’t confuse the “demand for less” as simply a “demand for better.”
The real driver for better evaluation reports is not organizational demand. It’s individual evaluators, and evaluation teams, taking on the hard work of improving and modernizing their own reporting strategy.
It’s the evaluators who go above and beyond in designing their reports, not because they were asked to do so but because they believe that their work is important enough to be shared.
Stop waiting for permission, it’s up to you to create better reports.
The only reason I get to do the interesting information design work that I get to do is because someone in an organization decided to be a champion for better reporting.
The same holds true when I was just starting to get into design as an evaluator and research analyst at Westat. I didn’t get to practice my newly developing design skills because someone asked. I got to start creating interesting things because my boss didn’t tell me no.
Ultimately, your boss or your organization doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. If all they see when they get an evaluation report is a long boring thing that needs to be shorter so that it can be easily ignored, you have already lost.
If you believe in your work, you need to give them better not just shorter. You need to show them why your work is important, and why you are taking the time to create the report in the first place. You need to do such a good job sharing your work that they start to demand more.
YOU are the driver for better reports.
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Things to know.
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