How to Create Prettier Reports in Excel

While it is the data in any Excel reporting that matters, good styling, colorful charts and graphs will turn a report from raw data to a compelling story and be easier to digest and understand.

Here are a few basic tips to help you create prettier reports in Excel and tell a story with your data

How to make pretty excel reports - Finished report

Styling Excel Tables

1. Start your data table in B2

Tables in Excel are not very easy to digest. Data is best understood when visualized with graphs and chart. However there are data numbers that need to be presented in a table.
Moving the table to start from B2 gives a nice spacing between the top and left margins of your report. This spacing simply makes it easier to look at a table of data and easier to read and understand the data

2. Branding and Report Title
It might also make sense to start even further down in column B and insert logos of your agency, client or brand at the top of each sheet on your report. Underneath this branding fill one of the rows with a suitable branding color by selecting the entire row and then fill it with an appropriate color. You can begin your table of data one row below this filled row.
You can also insert report title and date.

3. Always use table formatting
Tables with data are easier to read if formatted properly. Excel has a great table formatting feature with some really good built in table formatting templates. You can also build your own table formatting style to use or you can manually format your tables. When formatting tables try to use a header row, lines between each row and rotate colors between rows.

4. Remove background noise by deleting the gridlines from the sheet. You can do this by going to the View tab and untick the Gridlines option. This makes the sheet background white without any distraction making it easy to focus on the data.

Styling Excel Charts

5. Align axis titles on the chart horizontally
One of the things I hate the most about Excel charts is when I have to tilt my head to read the axis titles.
There are many ways to avoid this. You can change the chart type or stretch the chart to fit in the titles.

6. Delete gridlines and legends with one data series
In order to tell a story with your data the reports need to be clean of any background noise or anything not useful on the charts. I personally love charts and graphs that have no gridlines. Gridlines might be useful with a line chart but any other chart is better without them. It is very easy to delete gridlines, simply click on one of the lines to select and hit delete.
Also if your chart has only one data series it is no use to keep a legend of it. Delete it to focus on the important story the chart has to tell.

Pretty Excel Reports - Don't tilt

vs this:

Pretty Excel Reports - don't tilt 1

7. Sort your data before charting
Make it easier to understand what data is saying by sorting largest to smallest numbers before charting your table.
It is way easier to visualize how numbers in your data relate if they are sorted beforehand.

Pretty Excel Reports - Sort before charting

vs this:

Pretty Excel Reports - Sort before charting 1

8. Color your tabs
If you have a report with data in several tabs you have the option to give colors to your tabs. You can choose a color by right clicking on the tab and choose “tab color” option and select the color of you choice.

Pretty Excel Reports - Color tabs

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