For the screen shots in this post we deliberately used Internet Explorer 6.0 to bring back the real, authentic feeling of the time when these reports were built. By being online up to twenty years these reports obviously went far beyond the usual web half-life, so please be generous on broken links or defective tools.
Our journey starts in 1995 with what we found to be the world’s oldest Annual Report in HTML: Home Depot Online Annual Report 1995 (If you know an older OAR, please let us know!).
The visionary home page design of the report seems far ahead of time! With its big background image this is fully inline with current web design trends, which on the other hand makes me think about how revolutionary nowadays web design really is…
However, sneaking inside the content reveals the report’s true age. The layout spreads the charm of the early internet age that we are not used to anymore. Funnily it reminds me of browsing current EDGAR filings on the website of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission www.sec.gov. Clearly not a commendation for SEC web design evolution.
Like the one from Home Depot the Volvo Online Annual Report 1996 is obviously an early adopter version, too. Limited navigation options with some permalinks demonstrate the first steps of a still long way to go for digital reporting. Two years later the Volvo Online Annual Report 1998 already developed into being a true web solution with a tree navigation and a side bar to display graphs or large tables – by the way, a cool feature was introduced with this 1998 version: the “exit” button.
Until today Volvo publishes a HTML version of every Annual Report.
The Online Annual Report 1997 of Pfizer is a big step ahead for digital reporting introducing a usable navigation and most importantly: having all content including the notes section available in HTML. This probably marks the true beginning for “usable” online annual reporting!
By the way, all these early online annual reports work very well on smart phones. With small content widths and a top navigation these are very well displayed on mobile devices. Another evidence of visionary early stage web design.
In the late 90s coding web sites in frames was the latest web trend. As we can see in the Novo Nordisk Online Annual Report 1998 these frames follow a similar behaviour like a sticky header or footer nowadays does. Content scrolls but the grey bar around it stays. Later on the coding in frames was abandoned as it was semantically wrong, but the trendy look and feel obviously came back with improved web technology.
Also notable are the pull down menus for navigation purposes included in the page footer.
Following their IPO in October 1999 United Parcel Service jumped on the digital reporting bandwagon offering their Online Annual Report 1999 as colourful rich media experience. Three, picture-heavy, magazine-style case studies show UPS being ready for the 21st century. Nice touch: the circle background image on the top navigation, taking on board the main cover theme of the report.
At the turn of the millennium Goldman Sachs published their answer for a growing believe in the future of the world wide web. To open the Goldman Sachs Online Annual Report 2000 you “Require Macromedia Flash” as the entire report is build as flash application. Obviously this was ten years before Apple finally killed Adobe’s Flash, but it’s a show case for what might happen when you solely rely on proprietary Adobe Software, instead of using open HTML standards.
GEs Online Annual Report 2001 turns out to be more future-proof. Next to the nice flash animation on the starting page there is a link to a non-flash alternative.
Unfortunately an awful lot of menu entries from the left hand navigation have been redirected to the GE corporate website. It’s hard to say whether this has been done on purpose or just happened due to changing server rewrite rules.
The oldest available report built by the nexxar team is the RWE Online Annual Report 2002, since our pilot project for DaimlerChrysler in 2001 has been taken offline. Highlight of that time certainly was our subject navigation for building your own report that provides a new contextual menu tree for individual AR topics.
I still remember the HTML build of the financial tables took ages to include the visual effect of a stair to highlight the current year e.g. of the balance sheet. Another funny thing to see is the disk icon infront of the download link. Does anyone still connect a disk with downloads?
Let me end this tour of the world’s oldest Online Annual Reports with a befitting note on the Deutsche Bank – Online Annual Report 2003. The interactive file library, layer glossary, internal and external crosslinks and all tables downloadable as spreadsheet, excels this report as cutting-edge not just for it’s time.
This report laid the cornerstone for nexxar being invited to work on some of the most thrilling digital reporting projects in the following years.
We are curious to hear your take on old Online Annual Reports
Do you know of other available old Online Annual Report that you like to share? Please use the comments below to post your view.