BookmarkSubscribeRSS Feed

Check out these report design best practices and tell us what to focus on next

Started ‎10-05-2017 by
Modified ‎10-05-2017 by
Views 3,749

I’m always hearing about something new the SAS user experience (UX) team is working on. From their competitive entry in the VAST challenge to hosting a report design makeover raffle, this team constantly pushes the creativity envelope to not only sharpen its expertise, but also share it with users. In comes the latest endeavor: producing report design best practices on the SAS web site.


From left: Mark Malek, Cheryl Coyle, Karen Mobley, Sam Pipkin and Jeanne Marie TanFrom left: Mark Malek, Cheryl Coyle, Karen Mobley, Sam Pipkin and Jeanne Marie TanI caught up with the team – Cheryl Coyle, Distinguished UX Designer, Mark Malek, Sr. Associate UX Designer, Jeanne Marie Tan, Sr. Associate UX Designer, Karen Mobley, Senior Technical Writer and Sam Pipkin, Technical Writer at SAS – on the thinking behind these best practices pages. I got a good background on the project and discovered ways the team is looking for YOUR help to determine future topics. Read on for details in this Q&A. 


I’ve heard the SAS UX team published some best practices for report design. What was the idea behind them?


Sure. Let me give you some context. Our users quickly become experts in the features of SAS Visual Analytics (VA), and know their domain very well. However, telling a story from data using tables, charts and indicators is not intuitive, especially if it is a complex story and has a wide audience.


When we have been lucky enough to meet and talk with SAS VA report designers, one of the most common questions we get is if we have best practices for creating well-designed reports. Until now, the answer has always been no, not formally. We wanted to be able to change our response and give report designers something they are asking us for.  So, we started pulling content together to publish on a website. You can see the beginnings of our best practices site in this working site.

Are the best practices specific for SAS Visual Analytics visualizations or more general tips for report design … or both?


Our primary audience is the creator of reports/visualizations in SAS Visual Analytics. However, many if not most of our best practices provide guidance for report design in general. Our examples and tips are based on VA. 


Why is this project exciting for you?

We are very excited by this project because it is another opportunity for us to reach out to our customers, and for them to access SAS’ collective design expertise.  Report design is about more than picking fonts and colors.  Design influences overall perception of quality, and it impacts a report reader’s understanding of the data.  It’s wonderful that our customers realize this, and it’s rewarding for us to assist them in creating visually pleasing, effective reports.


What’s the latest with the site?


As you can see in the pages, we’ve already tackled the practices of limiting pages and objects and adding white space. We’ve started asking VA and design experts across SAS to contribute content. In addition, we’d love to get input from VA report builders themselves.  What topics are of most interest to them, and which topics would they like to see on the site next?


This is where you come in, community! Help drive the next phase of this report–design-best practices project. Take this brief survey and let us know what areas most interest you.

Send us your report design feedback


There's also good graph design, which isn't mentioned, but it really is an important piece of good report design. In the example shown, the left-most plot has bar charts graphed on a continuous numeric axis. This really doesn't feel right to me, if your axis is continuous, then you ought to be producing line charts, not bar charts. There are many different options here for coloring the lines and/or coloring the area between the lines and/or separate axes for the two different measures; depending on what message you want to get across.

Hi Paige,


I am part of the design best practices team, so let me echo Anna's thanks for your feedback. We could really use your input on the survey.


We do plan to have a page on the site about choosing the right graph type for your data, and we will look into your specific input about the bar chart in the example report image.




If you search the Internet, you will find lots of people writing on what makes a good graph and what makes a bad graph, plus examples, and also some discussion of underlying good graphics principles. Edward Tufte is one person who has written extensively on this subject (and if you're curious, he nominates a particular graph as the best graph ever constructed).

Great points, PaigeMiller. Indeed Edward Tufte is extremely prolific in this area!  In fact, I currently have a little stack on my desk of some of his greatest hits:

 tufte books pic.jpg

As many of you have noticed, our site has very little content on it right now.  One considerable gap is a section on data, and how to choose the right visualization.  We are engaging with experts in this domain, and we intend to populate content on that topic in the near future.  Please continue sending us your ideas and suggestions on that topic. We love getting this feedback. Your comments will help improve this site.  (Also, please answer this 3-question survey to tell us which topic areas to focus on next.) And, yes, we will indeed revisit the graphs shown on our site since they are not excellent examples.  Thank you!

Version history
Last update:
‎10-05-2017 10:12 AM
Updated by:



Registration is open! SAS is returning to Vegas for an AI and analytics experience like no other! Whether you're an executive, manager, end user or SAS partner, SAS Innovate is designed for everyone on your team. Register for just $495 by 12/31/2023.

If you are interested in speaking, there is still time to submit a session idea. More details are posted on the website. 

Register now!

Free course: Data Literacy Essentials

Data Literacy is for all, even absolute beginners. Jump on board with this free e-learning  and boost your career prospects.

Get Started

Article Labels
Article Tags