A UX perspective on homepages of Integrated Reports

Who are your expected visitors and what do you want to help them find?
Written by Mitchell Monhemius

In earlier blogs we talked about the emergence of Integrated Reporting and its undeniable friendship with the digital domain. More and more companies understand the social desire for transparent communication, the government’s increasing demand for ethical production of goods and the strategic insights a fully integrated report can bring to your business case. Switching from a printed Annual Report to a digital Integrated Report can relieve some of the old-fashioned burdens of printing, but it also gives rise to new challenges!
The multifaceted nature of an Integrated Report means you must now cater to differing audiences. A fully interactive website can do this better than a linear, printed report can, but it is by no means an easy exercise. The solution starts with a critically important UX question: “Who are your expected visitors and what do want to help them find?”

The audience

A recent study done by the Vienna University of Economics and Business shows the variety of users of online annual reports. If you still think people who read annual reports are only interested in financial information, you are mistaken! The study revealed a whole spectrum of different user groups, including employees, customers, financial analysts, retail shareholders, job applicants, institutional investors and sustainability experts. They also looked into different topics of interest and matched them to specific user profiles. Some of the topics that stood out where financial performance, strategy, sustainability, management and company outlook.
The general conclusion of their research was that there are in fact different kinds of users reading your annual report, and they have, to some extent, different interests. All these users need to feel at home on the homepage of your online Annual Integrated Report.

Welcome home

Let’s assume for the sake of this blog that you have a new reader visiting your online Integrated Report because you shared a link to it on LinkedIn. You have no way of knowing exactly what part of your report this visitor is interested in reading. The content of your homepage must therefore be appropriate for any possible relevant user group. We believe a good homepage of an Integrated Report does the following things:

Set the mood

The first thing people see is the homepage. Therefore, it sets the mood for the reading experience of your visitor. The importance of this should not be underestimated. As the saying goes: “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” The mood you set will become the framework through which the rest of the content on your website will be interpretated. If you start your homepage with, for example, a big visual; choose it wisely!

Another prime function of first glance of the homepage is to trigger the interest of your visitor and motivate further discovery of your content. The right formula for sparking interest is a well-balanced combination of aesthetically pleasing and genuinely interesting content. The visual on your landing page should be both beautiful AND show the visitor something relevant to your message. The layout of your content should be both creatively engaging AND clear in its communication. This way you set the right mood, spark the interest of your visitors and motivate further reading of your content.

See how Port of Rotterdam engages readers with an exciting tagline and visual

Tell the people what you find important

This is pretty much the only time you get the attention of every type of reader, from every target audience. After this page, each reader is scattering off to the sections of your website that better suit their specific informative needs (if your infrastructure functions properly).
This is the time to be selfish and let people know what’s going on with you! You might start off with a call to action that brings readers to your full Integrated Report. But you may also want to share some other, more general information with your audience. What are some accomplishments from the last year you are proud of? What are some mayor changes to your company all stakeholders could be interested in? Maybe present your organisations mission statement, or some comments on current affairs (like the corona pandemic) and what it means for you. After all, this is your moment in the spotlights! Tell the people what you want them to know.

Show the people where they want to go

The last important function of your homepage is to direct your readers to parts of your report most relevant to them. A good Integrated Report provides useful and interesting information for a wide range of target audiences. These readers share a common interest in your overall organisation, but when it comes to more detailed information, they have a specific interest. It is very important that you don’t show people too much detailed information they are not interested in. You are surely going to lose their interest and spoil their motivation to keep reading your report. What you can do instead is guide people to a specific part of your report first, and then give them the detailed information they are looking for. This navigation starts on your homepage.

But what is the best way to do this? How do you direct your reader to where he or she wants to go? There are some basic website elements that generally go in the header of every page to help this process, like a clear and accessible navigation menu and possibly a search option. These tools are helpful when you already know what you are looking for, but they don’t really help readers who are not yet entirely sure what they want to read. This second group is probably new to the contents of your Integrated Report and must become acquainted first. This means the best way to redirect people is always dependant on your content. Maybe your report is structured in a way so that each chapter represents a specific stakeholder group? In that case you might want to have a grid display of these chapters on your homepage, with a relevant image, summary, and link.
Another interesting way to guide your readers could be through interesting stories or interviews. Again, you would first need to have this kind of content, but if you do it’s a great way to keep people engaged. Maybe you have a collection of stories or interviews with some of your stakeholders. You could present these stories in a list of highlights on your homepage and trigger the reader to click on them. Once they are reading a story, you can direct them from the story to a relating part of your Integrated Report. How integrated is that!

See how UCB’s homepage reflects the structure of their Annual Report

Your Value Creation Model as a navigational component

The value creation model (VCM) is an important part of most Integrated Reports and a good way to show your stakeholders your integrated mindset. In the last three years we have worked on many Integrated Reports and have seen many different models and integrations of models.
We see a trend of VCM’s doubling very effectively as a navigational component. More and more companies see the VCM as a core element of their Integrated Report and present it in exactly this way. Instead of being only a small part of the report, somewhere in a distant chapter, VCM’s are showing up on their own pages displayed in the main menu, or even on the homepages of reporting websites. And if you keep in mind what we have been discussing in this blog, it should not come as a surprise! VCM’s are often visually attractive and spark interest. They also give visitors an overview of the entire company and process, meaning they are relevant for all audiences. Furthermore, they allow for the possibility to link certain parts of the model to specific parts of the Integrated Report, turning them into effective navigational components. This makes a VCM a prime element to place on the homepage of an Integrated Report.
I can’t wait to see all the creative ways in which companies are going to present their VCM’s in the upcoming years. We at F19 are certainly going to attribute to this movement!

See how ProRail uses their Value Creation Model as a navigational component