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Is Report Design Still Important Under the ESEF Mandate?

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Is Report Design Still Important Under the ESEF Mandate?
4 May 2020

With 2019 reporting completed, annual reporting teams are now focusing their attention on answering the big questions they still have about the European Single Electronic Format (ESEF).

Here's one question we have heard many people ask: Is design still important under the ESEF mandate?

There is no doubt that design adds value and improves the experience of consuming the annual report. But, the electronic format is about functionality and compliance. That begs the question: where does design fit in?

Do you want to simply be compliant or to create something truly amazing?

Firstly, designers need to anticipate how the audience will interact with XBRL®. This is a big ask since no one really knows. However, surely it is better to provide the audience with the best user experience and storytelling that this new medium can bring.

Essentially, the thought process has to evolve in order to facilitate this anticipation. Annual reporting teams can decide whether to be just compliant or adjust their mindset with this new vision and create something truly amazing.

For communicators, the ESEF has the ability to become a powerful provider of financial information for investor decision-making. And, design will always help the path of technological change. The better it looks, the more people will accept it and the more valuable it will become.

Functionality will no doubt be enhanced, but by helping the user navigate through the ESEF report, design remains as important as it ever was in the traditional PDF version.

Designers and issuers can be at the helm of this change. The ESEF should not be an excuse to ignore the power of designed content. It should be a time when designers give the investor community what they need—searchable data in an environment they are used to and the assurance of accurate information that they can find quickly.

Designers need to change their thought process for the ESEF

What do we mean by changing the thought process?

For the ESEF, designers essentially need to think about the XBRL first because the XBRL is the footprint of the report—the footprint that will be left behind forever. XBRL tags will be clicked on and consumed by readers for the magic of the ESEF to happen. It is this information that will get compared against competitors and across sectors.

By understanding the importance of the XBRL content, designers can navigate users toward it and make sure everything else in the report, from pull-outs to graphics, supports that clickable, searchable and viable content.

Therefore, designers shouldn’t make the XBRL fit the content, they should make the content work hand in hand with the XBRL.

Can designers still win design awards under the ESEF mandate?

There is no reason why design cannot be celebrated within the ESEF requirement. In fact, added functionality should facilitate even more awards. Structured data and a more valuable document should be a designer’s dream and serve as building blocks for new material.

How does Workiva integrate with design?

At Workiva, we understand the importance of design in annual reporting. We have been focused on constantly improving the experience of our customers, and their design teams, in relation to the quality of the report.

We know that most designers want to create in InDesign®, so this will not change for ESEF reporting. The Workiva ICML export has been vastly improved and the IDML import will allow your designed content to flow into the Workiva platform for the tagging and the conversion to XHTML to take place.

Why should designers want to work with Workiva?

Remember the XBRL footprint? The XBRL will be content that stays with the company forever—downloaded and compared in seconds and a footprint lasting a lifetime.

With great design, there must be ultimately still be trust in the data. When data changes hands to third parties, there is the chance of a data breach. There are also questions that might arise. Was the update actually done? Which version is now in circulation?

With Workiva, there is full data assurance because the audited content remains in the platform at all times. The designed content and attributes flow from InDesign into the platform as additional material—captions and pull-outs for example.

Designers should be able to rely on the data they are working with. This data will come under incredible scrutiny. You don’t want your name on something that you cannot trust. With content from the Workiva platform, designers can trust the data from beginning to end.

Finally, Workiva will support designers throughout this process by working with them tirelessly to create the best environment to deliver the ESEF.

Beyond Workiva, we hope that the new facility of structured data and click rate analysis will give designers new territories where they can communicate financial information across a global audience never witnessed before.

Bonus webinar

To learn how you can create excellent design using content from the Workiva platform, in addition to seeing a demonstration of the integration of the Workiva platform, InDesign and XHTML, view the Designed Reporting with Workiva webinar.

XBRL® and iXBRL® are trademarks of XBRL International, Inc. All rights reserved. The XBRL® standards are open and freely licensed by way of the XBRL International License Agreement.  Adobe InDesign is a registered trademark of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.

About the Author

Jackie specialises in designed reporting together with the ESEF mandate at Workiva. She is also the co-founder of PortAlchemy, a financial data consumption platform of listed companies in the EU. Prior to this, Jackie was involved with the marketing and servicing of content management systems, annual report production and has been responsible for the maintenance of investor relations websites for major companies.

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