Documents are created daily and numerously. Just think about sales quotes, reports, invoices, insurance policies and many more. However, not all documents create value for the recipient, mostly just because they are poorly designed. Read why good document design is important and how to get started right away with our tips for the design of business documents.

Good design is good business.

T.J. Watson Jr., IBM

This statement is still accurate today. In its 2015 study results, the dmi:Design Value Index shows that design-led companies show significant stock market advantage over the past 10 years, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 211%. Good design still plays a crucial role in today’s business world. It helps a brand to make a strong first impression, stand out among the competition and convey consistency.

But what about designing how information is communicated to customers? Especially when it comes to documents that are shared with customers, many organizations lose their focus on good design. When was the last time you received a visually appealing insurance policy, online-shopping receipt, or travel confirmation?

No matter how interesting, important, or resourceful the content a company tries to get across is – if it is not communicated properly, it will not improve the relationship with the customer. The audience may get frustrated because they cannot read or understand the content of the document. And poorly designed documents are often also a missed chance for getting the brand message across, building trust or even for cross and up-selling.

So why are not all documents designed in a way to successfully engage with customers? The challenge for business users, who design the documents, often is: a lot of different data, including numbers, sums, names, contact details and much more based on the individual customer has to be integrated into one document. Doing this in a visual appealing way is often very time-consuming and might even require a lot of programming effort, if you have to get the required data from your ERP-, CRM- systems or databases into the document first.

In this blog post, we show 3 tips on how to improve the design of your business documents, integrate your data in a visual appealing way and how you can implement these measures right away.

1. Avoid errors when designing business documents

This should be the number one priority and might seem like a no-brainer to many. Sending out a document with wrong data or sending it to the wrong recipient might not only cost you actual money, but also damages the customer’s trust and loyalty. Just think about privacy concerns or sensitive data.

However, copy/paste is stilled used to create documents in many organizations, which is not only a lot of work, but also extremely error-prone. If you want to achieve good design for your documents, avoiding errors is the basic requirement. Automating your document output does not only save you lots of time, but also saves you from embarrassing errors.

How can you avoid errors in your documents all together? Automate your documents and rely on the data that you already have in your systems. There are ways to do so in a very powerful, intuitive and flexible way, which we will discuss further down.

2. Ensure brand consistency and corporate design when creating business documents

Up-to-date corporate design elements like headers- or footers are important to convey brand consistency. However, in a lot of companies many people work on different documents, which leads to inconsistent design. And not only that: working with many templates also costs a lot of unnecessary resources, which could be easily saved by using intelligent conditions and text modules.

Documents that are created from your systems directly might be consistent, but often they follow the „corporate design by IT“ as programming is needed to design and create documents. Small changes, for example if an opportunity on the market arises, or you need to react to legal changes, are then almost impossible as the IT-department has to program every small change.

If business users can design and adapt documents in their known applications, like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, while outputting the document based on the latest template from their usual interface, adaptations in corporate design and therefore brand consistency is much easier to achieve.

3. Focus on visual document design and content

How often have you copy/pasted banking information into your online-banking account to settle an open receipt? Or how often have you typed in a reference, tracking, invoice number or link, e-mail address, telephone number by hand?

There is a very easy and convenient way to avoid this and make the customer’s life much easier: bar and QR-codes. People today are using their devices to access information more than ever. By just scanning the code, the information is instantly available to the user. However, placing a QR-code into a document that is generated with data from an ERP- or CRM-system usually requires a lot of programming and is very inflexible if adjustments are needed.

The same is true for images and other visual content. But have you ever seen a well-designed document without any pictures? At least the brand’s logo is mostly a prerequisite when sending out a document to a customer. You might also want to include product pictures, advertisements, or other visual information into your documents.

Also, company policies such as Terms & Conditions or Social Responsibility guidelines must be included in many documents. These policies might be updated multiple times, so it is crucial that the latest version is integrated into any document that is sent out. These elements, for example pictures, advertisements or even written policies, are saved in different locations. Integrating them, in the latest version, into the same document as the data from your ERP- or CRM-systems might require a lot of programming effort.

In an ideal scenario, the business user who creates the document would be able to simply define that data is shown as a QR-code, image, graph or so on. Data sources could be combined without any programming already when designing the document and the latest version of your sub-documents will be included, whenever a document is generated.

Is that possible? We explain how you can get started right away:

Good document design within your existing system- and process-landscape

We have identified areas to work on to improve the design of business documents, but how can you integrate these within your existing systems?

With dox42 all these challenges can be solved with very minimal effort. dox42 is a powerful document generation engine that allows for attractive document design in Microsoft 365 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). You can include bar codes, QR-codes, images, graphs, diagrams, calculations, conditions and much more into your document design. And as the document design happens in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, business users can easily design and adapt documents themselves.

It is a no-code tool, so no programming is required. At the same time data from all sources like SharePoint, Dynamics 365, SAP, Excel, SQL, and many more can be integrated and mixed easily without any technical knowledge.

Even images with very high resolutions can be integrated across platforms, as Fraser Yachts have done in their Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and SharePoint use-case:

You want to optimize your document design and output management? Visit dox42.com or contact dox42 directly to learn more on how you can make good business with good document design!