Digital publication of Annual Report documents

What is Digital publishing?

Digital publishing is (put simply) publishing content online.

However, for content to be published online in accordance with best practice, it must be accessible, user-friendly and ‘machine readable’.

Being ‘machine readable’ means it can not only be read by the reader (us humans), it can also be read by search engines and by screen and Braille reader technology.

Why should we publish our Annual Report content online?

Publishing your Annual Report content online allows you to reach the widest possible audience and to deliver your content in a variety of formats, as to make that content more user friendly, easier to read and accessible to your audience.

There are thee main issues to consider when publishing Annual Report content online:

  • Because, it’s best practice!
  • Accessibility and
  • Usability

Because, it’s BEST PRACTICE

If you’re a Public Sector agency, an organisation that provides a service to the community or simply a business that aims to ensure your content is available to as wide an audience as possible – then publishing online is a MUST..  AND it’s best practice to do so.

For Government Agencies and the Public Sector it’s an issue not only of best practice, it’s an issue of of compliance. There are numerous guidelines to assist in navigating this field. The Annual Reporting Framework 2012/13 provided by the Public Sector commission (PSC) provides an overview and some pointers as to the requirements for publishing your content online.


What is accessibility?

No, it’s not making sure you have ramps in your workplace… Accessibility (in a digital sense) means working to ensure you make the content you provide is accessible to the widest possible audience – including those who have difficulties using the standard keyboard-screen-mouse setup.

Accessible for whom?

When we say people with disabilities, in this context, we mean people who may be sight impaired, have intellectual, neurological or physical disabilities. They may be people that require a Braille or screen reader, or specialised software, specialised software or tools to enable them to use a computer. We should also include the many elderly people who suffer from shaky hands and who have difficulty clicking small link targets.

Some guidelines for Accessibility

There are some guidelines and recommendations set out for the public sector. These include recommendations for the publishing of printed and electronic material to assist access (for people with disabilities) to State Government information, services and events. More detailed information on this is available in the Annual Reporting Framework as provided by the Public Sector Commission.

We can all work to develop our content and publish with ‘accessibility’ in mind.

This includes considering the use of design elements such as;

  • the use of colour;
  • contrast;
  • font size; and
  • navigational aids to assist finding your way around the document.

Accessibility online also means considering the right format to publish your content in – some online formats are better than others and there are a few right and wrong ways to do this. I’ll discuss formats that are suitable for accessibility and the benefits and shortcoming of these in my next article.


What is usability?

Usability – quite simply – means working to ensure you make the content you provide more ‘useable’…  enhancing the user experience, or making it more ‘user friendly’.

Perhaps you’ve been in the position of reading a document or navigating through an annual report and finding yourself lost, confused or simply bored and struggling to engage with the content (whether in a PDF format, online or printed format). A document that makes you feel like this is simply lacking in the basics of usability.

What is usability in the digital context?

In a Digital world ‘usability’ can mean that content should be easy to read, easy on the eye (yes it should LOOK GOOD) and easy to navigate.  It can also mean making sure the content can be shared, copied, pasted, annotated or bookmarked and most importantly searched.  All of these things can make the users experience of consuming that content better.

Some things to consider

Make sure the content is available through multiple platforms and devices

Hands up who has a smart phone or tablet… Increasingly, we’re using these devices in our personal and professional lives.

Consider what you can do to ensure that your content is delivered in a format that is ‘usable’ on:

  • a desktop PC
  • a laptop
  • at the office
  • at home
  • on a tablet or mobile device
  • across multiple platforms
    • Windows
    • Mac
  • on different browsers
    • Firefox
    • Internet Explorer
    • Safari  etc
  • different assistive technologies
    • Braille
    • screen reader …  and so on

Allow the user to choose the format they’d prefer to read your content

In the modern age of choice we all have a preference as to how we like to consume our content.

These days we cannot simply produce a printed document, or upload a PDF and hope that that format will suit all people. Some are happy with a PDF, others a simple text document, some prefer a website (HTML format), others a video overview or summary of the highlights.

Consider your audience

Consider your audience and how they might like to ‘use’ and consume your content. Seek some advice (we can help) or check out the below links for further information and get your content online to ensure you reach as wide an audience as possible.

Further information and links


UPDATE: We are offering agencies an independent accessibility review that will give you practical steps to meet your WCAG 2.0 obligations.

Posted in Annual reports