How to make your online annual report happen

Our recent piece on Going Digital with Your Annual Report got a lot of folks inquiring: “How can we make this happen on our end?” “What does it cost?” “How long will it take?”   

To help answer these important questions, we caught up with Lars Faye, Technical Director and Web Developer at Chee Studio. Lars works closely with clients who want to move their annual reports from PDF or print versions to compelling online microsites. He’s also a kick-butt collaborator who we’ve partnered with for our own client projects!

How do we begin creating an online report?

“One of the first decisions you’ll want to make is whether your digital report will be hosted on a dynamic or static microsite,” per Lars. In short, this means:

  • Dynamic: Your site is integrated within a content management system, or CMS, such as WordPress (requires coding/development), Wix, or Squarespace (both require very little coding/development). The client can edit the content.
  • Static: Your site requires coding by a web developer. The client cannot edit the content.

If you’re unsure which one is best for your needs, this is normal. Your web designer or developer can help you explore these options and determine the right fit.

That being said, Lars confirms “a good rule of thumb is to consider whether your annual report is evergreen or if it will change yearly. Evergreen reports maintain the same design with only minimal changes to written content, so a dynamic site where you can go in and make text edits on your own may serve you just fine. Given the nature of annual reports, however, many clients find that a fresh design better conveys new messaging and information — and therefore opt for a static site that gets updated every year.”

What does the process look like?

If you’ve determined a microsite is the right solution, then you’ll work closely with the designer and developer on the next step: your strategy. While these needs vary from client to client, here is a ballpark outline of what you can expect (note steps vary project to project):

  • Designer creates a fresh look for your report with your branding in mind (may include custom icons, hand-drawn illustrations, data visualization, and other interactive elements)
  • Developer codes the microsite built to your needs/specifications to match the provided designs
  • Developer works with you and your team to strategize the best launch process

For static microsites, these steps may also be involved:

  • Developer builds and packages the finished HTML files
  • Client takes delivered HTML files and implements them on their server (alternatively, developer can implement if given access to server)
  • Client handles implementing the unique URL, if one is desired (for example, you might use “”)

The typical timeline for this process can be anywhere from 8 to 10 weeks. Again, this can change depending on the project.

What does the process look like?

It depends on the requirements of the report. While no two sites are alike, Lars does have this insight to share: “Dynamic reports can be more expensive than static reports, depending on the amount of content and the functionality/content requirements.”

This is because static reports are typically lighter on content than dynamic versions, so there’s less spend in that department. On static sites, the stories are driven by visuals that represent some of the heavy, text-dominated PDFs of our collective past.

Here are a few examples from Lars’s studio to show what we mean:

Left: 2020 Silicon Valley Community Foundation Annual Report. Right: 2021 Dalio Center for Health Justice Progress Report.]

It’s easy to begin your online report project (and we’ll keep it that way throughout, pinky swear). Just grab a spot on our calendar to find a day and time that works for you, and we’ll look forward to discussing your ideas.

If you still have questions and aren’t ready to commit, that’s o.k., too! Go ahead and book a time with us. We love to meet new folks and learn about what they’re doing in the world.