Pixel-perfect reporting is a term you may frequently hear in the data analytics field, but what exactly is it? The generic term “pixel perfect” was created to describe the resolution displayed on a CRT screen when the number of pixels displayed exactly matched the number of pixels in the image source.
When translated into the business intelligence (BI) world, pixel-perfect refers to reports generated to exact specifications meant for printing rather than ongoing data manipulation.
A pixel-perfect report is something that can be created by a few different legacy BI tools – but is it always necessary? Let’s take a quick look at what exactly Pixel Perfect reports are and why you might need them – and why you might not.
Because they match exact specifications, pixel-perfect reports are often used for items that need to be formatted in a certain way. Pixel perfect reporting allows for incorporating elements like page breaks, page headers, and images, paginated reports, and correctly sizing documents that need to be exported to a PDF or printed.
Pixel-perfect reporting allows precise placement of items on the page and precise manipulation of the pages themselves. A long financial document, for example, that needs fields to be filled based on output data will require the ability to be very specific with the layout, as all the data must be in precisely the right place.
Not all of today’s BI tools offer pixel-perfect layout features because it is often a very project-specific need, unlike embedded analytics, which can be easy to do for many reporting tools available.
One of the best-known legacy applications known specifically for its ability to create pixel-perfect reports is the Crystal Reports, which itself has a steeper learning curve than many other BI tools. Primarily because it does, by default, create pixel-perfect reports — the degree of programming knowledge required to use Crystal Reports is also needed for a user to create pixel-perfect reporting.
While pixel-perfect reporting is not always required and other, simpler-to-create reports and documents can be used in its place; there are some occasions where pixel-perfect reporting may be needed and some benefits to pixel-perfect reports.
Pixel Perfect reporting allows users to quickly create reports that need to be shared with others. Because the final report is created to exact specifications, it is great for very specific use cases. Examples of those might include:
Printed forms. When creating or replicating complicated forms that need to be done in a certain way for compliance reasons, pixel-perfect is the ideal tool. It allows for precise placement of text within standardized forms, so when regulatory compliance is at stake, where a misplaced text box can be the difference between passing or failing, it ensures precision placement of the necessary text. This is perfect for data visualization.
Certificates and other items that need to be exported to a specific format and printed in a specific layout can be done in Pixel Perfect. Often, these reports need to be exported to a PDF or other printable format, and Pixel Perfect reporting allows the document to be sized exactly to specifications.
Invoices and receipts. When it comes to accounts receivable, companies don’t want to leave any room for error. Exporting data into a PDF form makes it difficult to manipulate data and ensures the form meets standards.
There are a few downsides to pixel-perfect reports as well, and it’s worth considering whether these outweigh the benefits. Depending on the type of business and the use case, you may find the need for pixel-perfect reports is less than you thought.
They require developers or designers to create. The need for someone with advanced technical abilities is universal across static report writing tools, which require some technical syntax to create. Typically, these reports are created via SQL queries written to pull data from the database. Then, web programming or proprietary design language such as Crystal Reports is required to do the design work.
They don’t allow data discovery or analysis. Since the reports are static, they show only what they were designed to show – the certificate, receipt, etc. This means they don’t offer the benefits of self-service BI and ad-hoc reporting that most end users want to have access to. A standard BI tool might not be able to handle it.
They are more expensive. Because of the static nature and the lack of self-service BI behind pixel-perfect reports, any time a change is needed, you’ll need to pay either the original designer or another developer or designer to make it. Since pixel-perfect reports aren’t as flexible and dynamic as self-service BI reporting, you’ll need more of them to address all your reporting needs.
Change management becomes an issue at a certain point because you’ll have so many versions of different reports that it becomes difficult to know what is valid and outdated. The maintenance cost of dealing with these outdated reports adds up – it’s not uncommon to see prospects with more than 500 reports.
However, when they break it down and determine what they need versus what could be refreshed or updated in a new BI platform, that number shrinks down to approximately 50 reports.
We hate to break it to you, but DashboardFox does not do pixel perfect reporting. However, we want to ask you: do you really need pixel-perfect reporting for your business?
If you want the data that you want to relay to be repurposed into an interactive web-based report, that is when DashboardFox enters the picture to help you execute that in the best way possible.
However, there is a catch: there are some things like receipts where it is required to put specific information in specified locations, so it can be a problem for some businesses.
Good news: we can still help you with that. It is a developer-oriented option, but it can still work. You can freely use the API that we have for getting the raw data, and use that to bind the data into a pixel-perfect report through any traditional programming language.
That means, with a traditional web developer, knowledgeable about API programming, you can create a web template to produce the pixel-perfect report you want (and convert that into a PDF, schedule, or do other actions with it). Of course, we offer professional services to do this for you as well.
The DashboardFox API can give you the best of both worlds if you want to use it in creating reports that do not necessarily change from time to time. We can provide you with what you want to create in terms of reports that will not feel shortchanged.