Focus on readability to foster communication

Focus on readability to foster communication

by Robert Bouchard, UX Analyst

Whether presented in digital or paper format, reports are an integral part of the daily lives of financial services professionals. In addition to providing easy access to important portfolio information, they serve as a business card and demonstrate the care that advisors and their teams put into growing their clients’ assets.

We suggest three ways to improve the readability of your reports:

1. Make sure there’s enough contrast between the background and foreground

It’s important to make content visually understandable, but you need to consider that a percentage of the population do not perceive colors in the same way as the majority does. Did you know that 5% of men and less than 1% of women have some form of color blindness? In fact, some people have a visual impairment due to eye disease or a lesion, while others may simply find themselves in a situation or environment that diminishes their perception of contrast. The contrast ratio between colors must therefore be high enough to ensure optimal legibility. The trick to accurately measure this ratio is simple, but clever: Print your document in black and white. If some of the information seems to have been erased from the document, it’s because the contrast ratio is low and needs to be increased. In light of the above, keep in mind that color is not the only way to convey information or elicit a response.

Color Blindness

2. Use space wisely

Intuitively, we group information that is linked. Report writers usually use lines or boxes to mark these groups, especially if the document is complex and contains a lot of information. While this method may not create reading or comprehension problems per se, you must be careful that such elements don’t make your documents seem cluttered. Indeed, using borders to group what is similar does make a document appear more accessible. However, content-free zones are also a form of structure and allow you to prioritize information. To focus on important content, clear out what’s around it.

3. Have consistent communication materials

Consistency in visual and verbal communication is essential to convey appropriate information while creating a positive impression. The documents you present to your clients must have elements that are interrelated and convey a clear and consistent message. If your reports contain tables, make sure that the information is always presented in the same order and that the same terms are used throughout. If the reports include graphs, choose the colors carefully and make sure they’re always linked to the same elements. Such consistency will give a professional feel to all your communication materials.

In financial services as elsewhere, details make all the difference. Don’t hesitate to ask your readers to help you find ways to improve your message. You may be surprised at what you discover.


Experience it yourself, see the difference