18 Tips for Better Client-Facing Documents
Published: October 26, 2015
Author: Charlotte Haab
Creating a beautiful client-facing document doesn’t have to be an arduous task. One of the quickest and simplest ways to impress a client – or your manager – is by creating top-notch and aesthetically pleasing deliverables. A nice-looking weekly report or competitive analysis can set your work apart from the rest in the eyes of your client.
It’s also a great way to practice one of 3Q’s core values: everyone is a client! (Just because they’re your manager doesn’t mean they want to sift through a big ugly Excel spreadsheet to find what they need.)
The goal of this post is to help you go from this:
So much easier on the eyes!
Everyone deserves pretty deliverables, and to help with that I’ve compiled 18 tips for how to create great client-facing documents.
1. Keep it on brand. Have your brand theme template saved for ease of use. Changing your page layout to your company theme gives you quick access to all the fonts and color palettes you need to keep your document on brand. It also clearly shows who produced the deliverable and can help you grow rapport for the company by keeping your brand fresh in the client’s mind.
2. Title your tabs. Titling your tabs makes the document feel complete and organized. It also makes it easier for the client to navigate. Even if you only have one tab, any sort of title is better than “Sheet 1.”
3. Use column A. Leaving column A blank is a great way to create some calming white space within your document. You can then adjust the width of column A to make an appropriately sized border for the data you are presenting. When your data is smushed up against the edge, it looks claustrophobic.
4. Use color – Use your company’s brand colors to emphasize various sections of your document. Color is best used for title headers, results, or basically any area of the document you want to call attention to. Make sure it’s all within the same palette to ensure visual consistency throughout the document.
5. Use logos as a header. Using your company logo as well as your client’s is a nice way to create a professional-looking header with substance. It also subtly helps the client feel included.
6. Format your numbers. Formatting your metrics is an essential part of producing a professional report. Numbers above 1,000 should have commas; rates should be expressed as percentages with up to two decimal places; average position should be a number with only one decimal place; and any sort of monetary amount should be expressed as currency.
7. Get rid of the gridlines. Gridlines tend to look messy and harsh. No gridlines just looks cleaner, and it makes it easier to draw the eye of your viewer where you want it. It’s a nice finishing touch.
8. Format your text. When presenting examples of ad copy, it looks more professional to put it into the same format, as it will be shown on Google.
9. Format your tables. It’s easier to read data when it is all centered and separated by gridlines. Although the rest of the document should not have gridlines, they make data in tables easier to read. Using a lighter color than black (such as gray) is a good way to delineate cells without looking too harsh. You should also have clear metric headers as well as an informational title header so your viewer will clearly know what they’re looking at.
10. Format your graphs. There are many ways to prepare a graph or chart in Excel. Some basic ways to make it look nice are to incorporate company colors, smooth any sharp lines, label the axis, get rid of background lines, and of course have a title. Just make sure it is easy to interpret and nice to look at.
11. Include graphics when appropriate. Including screenshots can put hypothetical concepts into context. It also gives the viewer a nice visual break. Good opportunities for using screen shots include SERPs, landing page examples, competitor activity, and others. An appropriately placed screenshot can really enhance a document.
12. Include a summary. If a client opens a document on their own, it’s important for them to understand what they’re looking at. That’s why it’s a good idea to add either a summary tab or a little text box to briefly explain what they’re about to look at. Helpful things to include in a summary include but are not limited to methodology, key takeaways, results, next steps – or basically anything that the client should know. Just remember to spell-check!
13. Hide working tabs. Once you’re done preparing your client-facing pages, declutter your deliverable by hiding any working tabs you may have open. This makes the document easier to read and navigate – enhancing the client experience.
14. Adjust zoom. Make sure it’s at a comfortable and consistent zoom level across all tabs. 100% is standard.
15. Hide the selected cell. You can use your arrow keys to scroll your selected cell up to the top-left corner. It looks cleaner than having some random cell selected in the middle of the page. Having a logo in the top-left corner will mask the selected cell, making things look even cleaner.
16. Spell-check everything! Even though you may not have any blocks of text, a typo in a graph or table title can look sloppy and rushed.
17. Save where you want it to open. Wherever you are in your document when you save, is where it will be when the client opens it. Make sure you scroll each tab back to the top of the page, and save on the tab you want the client to begin on.
18. Finishing touches. Once your document is good to go, give it an appropriate title, including the date.
Ultimately, everyone has their own style for client-facing documents. However, it’s really consistency and attention to detail that will impress clients and colleagues when it comes to your deliverables. These tips can work for any sort of template or report. So go ahead and try these out on your next client document and get ready for the compliments to start rolling in!
Please feel free to add your own tips and tricks in the comments below!