In most Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) implementations, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of reports available for viewing. These reports provide glimpses into the sea of data that the organization collects. From these reports hopefully trends can be discovered and better decisions can be made. At least that’s the goal.
Don’t neglect presentation
There are many attributes of a good report. Broadly speaking the report must be based on accurate data, it must be delivered in a timely fashion, and it must be presented in a way that is easily consumed and interpreted by the users.
Unfortunately, many report developers focus exclusively on the first two elements – making sure the data is right and that the report doesn’t take too long to run. Those are important, of course, even essential. But often the presentation of the report is relegated to an afterthought. Data is slathered on a report form for the user to do with what he pleases.
Using alternating background colors
The topic of report presentation best practices is a broad one, far too broad to cover in just one post. Perhaps, I’ll tackle some of these issues in a series of posts in the coming months. In the meantime, there are minor and easily implemented improvements that can be added to reports that will make them immensely more readable.
For example, consider a report based on a table data region with row after row of information. Let’s say it’s an employee phone list report as shown below.
To make the report a little easier to read horizontally, we’d like to change the background color of every other row. To do so, let’s highlight the detail row of the data table in the layout tab.
In the properties window, find the BackgroundColor property for the highlighted row and choose <Expression…>. Add the following conditional formatting statement in the Edit Expression window.
Click Ok, and preview the report.
And there you go, a report that alternates the background color for each row. This makes it much easier to read.
But a word of caution: give some consideration to what the users will do with this report. If it’s likely to be printed, the alternating background color will consume additional toner or ink making the report more expense to print. In that case, consider using a single underline between each row.
What tips do you have for make reports easier to read?