We are almost ready to release an external report on findings from this past year’s alumni survey (here is where you’ll find it, when ready, as well as a report from last year). As I put the final touches on the report, I decided to try out Stephanie Evergreen‘s Evaluation Report Layout Checklist. Here’s how my report fared against her (awesome) checklist:
- Text fonts are used for narrative text: Not Met (NM) — Stephanie notes that serif fonts should be used — my university requires we use Arial for the body of reports, which is a sans serif font. I think a sans serif font is actually ok in this case because the report will be posted to the web and is intended for online viewing. But, I’m not a fan of Arial and would love to use an alternative. I’ll be exploring this.
- Long reading is in 9 – 11 point size: Fully Met (FM) — 11 point font – yay!
- Body text has stylistic uniformity: FM — I was tempted to bold some phrases to add emphasis and I’m glad I didn’t — this would have been distracting.
- Line spacing is 11 – 13 points: FM — I believe it’s at least that, though I set it to ‘multiple, 1.15’. This is something I’ll pay more attention to now.
- Headers and callouts are emphasized: Partially Met (PM) — Headers are a bit bigger, and are a different (coordinated) font, and bold to stand out, but don’t use sentence case. I may start using a different (coordinating) color to call these out more.
- No more than 3 fonts are used: FM — Yay! Only two fonts, per our university formatting standards
- Bullets are slightly less thick than text: NM — It did not occur to me to shrink the bullet points a bit. I think I’ve used sufficient spacing to make up for this. Gah! Now I wish I could edit these bullets….
FM = 4
PM = 1
NM = 2
- Alignment is consistent: FM — The report meets this element for the most part, though I centered a few charts. I’m not sure if these count, so I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt on this one.
- Columns are 8 – 12 words in length: NM — Most of the report text is a full page wide, and where it isn’t, it’s too short. This will impact readability — I’ll think about different ways to format the reports (more like newsletters?) in the future.
- Important elements are prominent: PM — I could probably work on making more important things stand out better, and move supportive information to less prominent places in the report. We’ve done a better job with this on another report, summarizing course evaluation results, in which we moved some background information and information about response rates to later and less prominent places in the report.
- Body text is left or full-justified: FM
- Grouped items logically belong together: FM
- Empty area is allocated on each page: FM
FM = 4
PM = 1
NM = 1
- Pictures/graphic elements are present: FM — Charts and tables galore. It would be fun to incorporate photos. Next time!
- Graphics are near associated text: FM — Yep, close and hopefully formatted into or between paragraphs in a way that is visually pleasing
- Graphics are simple: FM — A reasonable amount of information is included in graphics, and ‘noise’ is avoided (no gradients/textures, 3D, etc)
- Size corresponds to changes in meaning: FM — graphic sizes are appropriate
- Graphics direct towards text: N/A? Not sure on this one. Do charts and tables draw the eye away or towards their associated text?
- Visual theme is evident: FM — Report graphics have a consistent look
- Some elements are repeated: NM — I’m not sure exactly what this would look like though. I can imagine that for much longer reports, repeating some important graphics from the report body in the summary would be useful. And I can also imagine that use of photos could be repeated (to some extent).
FM = 5
PM = 0
NM = 1
Unknown = 1
- Narrative text is dark grey or black: FM
- Background has white/subdued color: FM
- One or two emphasis colors are used: FM, except for the use of multiple colors in some charts….
- Color changes mark meaning changes: FM
- Color reprints legibly in black and white: NM — charts don’t print well into black and white given that I’ve use multiple colors. I don’t want to use textures in my charts, and use of one or two colors doesn’t seem to differentiate elements of a chart. Either I’ve got charts that are too complex in some cases, or I need to pick different chart formats that are easy to see in both color and black and white.
FM = 4
PM = 0
Adding up the points:
FM = 17 x 1 point = 17
PM = 2 x 1/2 point = 1
NM: 0 points
The form states that “[w]ell formatted reports score within 23 – 25 points. At this level readers are better able to read and retain content.” So, I have some work to do, but am on the right track, and have identified some places where I can make improvements that will take us up to that 23 – 25 point mark fairly easily, I think. And I learned several things about good report/graphic design practice (so that’s what a serif font is!). Three cheers for reflecting and learning! I’ll revisit this for a future report to see if I’ve put what I’ve learned into use.