First Design Decision for a Quality Report: Web, Paper, or Both

What kind of report are you producing?

  • Printed report. Some report cards are designed specifically to be commercially printed and distributed as a brochure, booklet, or other paper report format.
  • Web report. A Web report is intended for people to read while they are online. Many of these reports are interactive in the sense that users have some control over what they see. Some Web reports are accompanied by a “print friendly” or PDF version that users can view, download, and/or print.

Would a Printed or Web Report Work Better?

In the early days of quality reporting, most reports were commercially printed. More recently, Web reports have become the preferred approach. What should you consider when making this decision?

Advantages of a Web Report

  • Saves on printing and distribution costs.
  • Quicker and easier to update than a printed report.
  • Available for immediate viewing by anyone with computer skills and access who has heard of the report.
  • Dynamic and interactive, offering more functionality and flexibility for both the sponsor and the user.
    • A Web report can include search tools, selection tools, sorting tools, and other features that have no counterpart in a printed report.
    • There are fewer constraints on how much information can be included, since the number of Web pages isn’t fixed and information can be “layered.”

Disadvantages of a Web Report

  • Development can be more complex, time consuming, and costly than development of a printed report.
  • Use requires computer skills and access.
    • Although Internet access is improving among most groups, many people still lack access to computers or the skills that are required to visit Web sites.[1]
    • Lack of skills and access can make Web reports problematic for many people with Medicaid and for many older people.[2]

Advantages of a Print Report

  • Familiar format for report sponsors as well as users.
  • Aesthetic appeal.
  • Ideal for people who do not have computer access.

Disadvantages of a Print Report

  • Users cannot manipulate and customize the data display like they can for most Web reports.
  • Constraints on size and the ability to offer details.
  • Expense involved in making even minor updates.
  • Distributing and maintaining inventory.

To Learn More

[1] Lenhart A, Lee R, Allen K, et al. The Ever-Shifting Internet Population: A new look at Internet access and digital divide. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Report Released April 16, 2003, Available at:
[2] Rideout V, Neuman T, Kitchman M, Brodie M. e-health and the elderly: How seniors use the Internet for health information: Key findings from a national survey of older Americans, 2005. Report #7223, Kaiser Family Foundation. Available at

Also in "Tips on Designing a Quality Report"

Page last reviewed February 2016
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: First Design Decision for a Quality Report: Web, Paper, or Both. Content last reviewed February 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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