10 Mobile Report Layout and Design Tips
No matter which template design tool you use, the output likely will not be identical to the template fora variety of reasons. Some of these reasons have to do with how the design tool formats itself differently according to a system’s graphics and printer drivers. Others have to do with vagaries of specific output formats.Neither you nor the design tool creator can do a lot about that.
But what you can do is make the output as close as possible to your desired layout by adhering to the following report design tips.
NOTE: The concepts behind each tip apply regardless of the design tool you’re using, although some are specific to Windward applications regarding vocabulary or the exact manner in which you use them.
Tip #1 Use hard page breaks.
If you want a page to break at a certain spot, use the tool’s hard page break command. The same principle works for other types of breaks, such as line breaks and column breaks.
Give yourself some wiggle room. Don’t try to cram stuff into every last corner of a page. If you do try to pack in information, sooner or later 1 page will spill over onto 2 pages.
Tip #2 Stick to TrueType and OpenType fonts.
Many other types of fantastic fonts are out there, but they are closely tied to their code page and can lead to some unwanted – and frustrating – formatting hiccups.Remember: With PDF, fonts are embedded in the document so this is not an issue. But with Office and HTML, fonts are not embedded in the application but rather use the fonts installed on the device. If the device does not find an exact match, it displays a font with similar metrics.
Tip #3 Skip absolutely positioned objects.
Instead, try to position relative to a paragraph,column or other item. Absolutely Positioning a Picture is a well-written tutorial where you can learn more about how to use relative positioning in your Word document. NOTE: We don’t know or endorse the author.
Tip #4 Sparingly use “keep lines together” settings for paragraphs.
A paragraph that is 3 lines in a template can be 100 times (or more) that many in a report. The lines may not all fit together in the final output.
Tip #5 Make sure charts and graphs are vector-based.
Vector-based charts and graphs, where the content is drawn using proportions and equations instead of pixels,keep their sharpness when the user zooms in or out. Vector-based graphs render more predictably than raster based charts and graphs.
Tip #6 Use tables sparingly.
Because of the relatively small display size, tables can really muck up the look of your report. But if you do use tables:
- Try not to exceed 4-5 columns in a table. More than that and you risk data getting pushed off the screen,forcing the user into excessive scrolling.
- Don’t use nested tables; you don’t have room for them. Nested tables can be great tools but if you have another option, take it. For example, to put a border around a page that contains a table, use the page border instead of creating a table for the entire page.
- Make table borders as simple as possible for PDF outputs. If you can, keep each one to a single width,color and style. And if you’re using Windward, be aware that Windward employs what are called polylines. In a PDF doc, it draws one polyline for the outer border, one for each internal row border, and one for each internal column border.
- Make use of row header repeat. As a table carries across a page break, you want the header rows repeated on subsequent pages for readability.
Tip #7 Keep formulas out of spreadsheets.
One exception to this is if the output is in Microsoft Excel, but keep in mind that custom formulas may not work on a variety of devices.
Tip #8 Minimize format space in order to maximize font space.
Font size plays an important role in readability, and you want the text to be as big as the format will allow.For mobile text paragraphs, 12 point font is okay and 14 points is better. And if you are using text in a table, take it a couple of font points below what you have elsewhere in your document.
Tip #9 Set a mobile report’s line spacing to slightly higher than that of a report viewed on a non-mobile device (desktop computer, printed document, etc.)
This is called leading, or the amount of space between lines in a paragraph of text.Finding the best spacing will need some experimentation on your part, but in general line spacing of 1½ (as opposed to single or double spacing) on a mobile device tends to work well.
Tip #10 If the output is Microsoft Word, design your templates in DOCX, not RTF.
RTF is notoriously funky (the technical term for “poorly formatted”)and Word doesn’t always follow it. Odds are RTF templates will have more problems than DOCX.
Asking graphic designers which font is best is akin to asking programmers how many spaces you should set a tab to in a programming editor; you’re almost guaranteed to start a heated discussion. But at the risk of ticking off our favorite graphics folks, we’ll recommend a few for mobile device display: Helvetica, Lato, Avenir, Droid Sans/Droid Serif, Futura, and PT Sans.