Data sheets and data sheet design need not be a painful, time consuming chore. We at TDSmaker believe that data sheet design and creation should be an easy task that allows you to truly show off your company and your product. Read on for tips on how to make your next data sheet stand out from the crowd.

1. Play with Words

Be creative with your headline, pull the reader in so they want to know more. You need to be careful here, there’s a distinct line in business marketing between what is and is not professional, while consumer marketing has a little more wiggle room.

Play words to make your data sheet memorable
Play words to make your data sheet memorable

2. Structure

Structure doesn’t just refer to design and layout (though we’ll talk about both in a moment). Using clear, structured writing will give your prospective clients the right information first. In business marketing, remember that your audience is likely to be time poor and will have a lot of competing data sheets and information to sift through. Your data sheet design must include the information that is most relevant first, continuing onto the least relevant last - if you’re not sure it should be included, save yourself and your client time and scrap it.

Design of a data sheet is one of the most crucial point for great product documentation
Design of a data sheet is one of the most crucial point for great product documentation

Consumer marketing is the same, customers here are looking for quick answers to their problem, your data sheet should contain the information that solves their problem in the first sentence, otherwise they’ll quickly lose interest and move onto the next. Those familiar with public relations and marketing will be familiar with the inverted pyramid structure for conveying information: put as much information into the first product description as is necessary and then work down the list in order of priority. For this step it’s essential you’ve done your research and know and understand your target market and what they’re looking for.

3. Emote!

Even the most shrewd businessmen and women aren’t devoid of emotion. Use language that will trigger a response, remember ‘the pen is mightier than the sword!’ Again, knowing your intended audience is key; does your company develop software that will save countless hours hunched over a badly lit desk, do you own a photography studio that can capture the perfect moment? Tap into the emotions of your customer base and use it to get their attention and gain their trust. Language used well is a key tool of any data sheet and shouldn’t be overlooked.

4. Testimonials

Using sections of your data sheet to highlight testimonials is a great way to inspire confidence in your product. Someone else has tried it out, and had such a positive experience they want to share it! Testimonials inspire confidence and help to put your product in a business or consumer context, increasing the value for your prospective client.

Enough about language, anyone who’s well-versed in putting together data sheets and related materials knows these points but reiteration is always a good thing.

It’s likely that you don’t have much of a say over the design of the logo itself, what you do have a say over is the positioning. A logo is a business’s calling card, be sure it features prominently in all of your business communications, it’s not good having an amazing data sheet if your reader doesn’t know where it came from. This is one design element of your data sheet that should be uniform, that is present on all pages in the same position so that clients know who the product came from, as with  our language points, reiteration is key.

6. Spacing

Data sheets are a way to present a lot of information in a confined space, the trick is knowing how to use it. A reader will be turned off if there’s too much information but will also likely toss it to the scrap heap if it’s all looks and no substance, as with everything in life, balance is key. Make your company motto bold and strong and highlight product elements in short, snappy sentences while giving enough space to photographs or images that illustrate how your product works.

Depending on your product you might want to give much of the space to a front and centre photograph or illustration and use bullet points, or if you need more room for explanation, segment the text into distinct areas on the page. Make sure the text is easy to read, follows a logical chain and reaches a clear and distinct conclusion. Having random boxes of information with no sequential order will leave the reader confused and unlikely to seek additional information about your product offering.

7. Photographs / Images

Using photographs won’t necessarily be practical or relevant to every product but use of a relatable visual aid will help to put your product in the mind of the reader. Do you make robotics? How cool is that? Feature it! Visualisation is a key tool you need to harness when presenting a product, all the theory in the world won’t help you if your prospective client can’t accurately picture the scale, dimensions and practical use of your product. Do you make software? Use images from the desktop interface! Photograph or image positioning can be key, why not feature later models on the following pages? Maybe the newest model isn’t a fit for the business you’re selling to but the later model may still be relevant, keep your options open. A photograph front and centre will attract a lot of attention, what about the background space? Can you zoom in on an element of the design and use it as a background? As with language, it's important to echo the image and reiterate your message and your product.

8. Infographics

Data sheets are a key tool for engineers and software developers in particular to show off their latest offerings. What can be an absolutely amazing new product, however, can go over many people’s heads if not explained correctly. This needn’t mean endless paragraphs and jargon that needs its own google translate dictionary. Use infographics to your advantage. Break the user process into small, sequential steps with the use of colourful imagery, that aren’t intimidating for the reader and are intuitive to follow - soon you’ll have a legion of experts ready and willing to put in a huge order! Infographics help to both break down the complexities of difficult to understand information and ensure your product is memorable and relatable - because your reader understands how it works, they understand how it can be applied to their individual needs.

9. Colour

Colour is really great way to draw attention to your data sheet and will certainly set it apart from the standard black and white Excel spreadsheets with static graphics we’re all so used to seeing. The trick is to use colour consistently and in a way that doesn’t blind the viewer. Extra graphics, text boxes and other elements of design shouldn’t take the attention off of your product. Accentuate your data sheet with splashes of colour, be bold, be daring in your colour choice, echo it throughout so that you have a consistent theme rather than an attack of colour that is galling to behold. You can be sure that a data sheet covered in clashing colours will quickly find its way to the scrap heap, written off as all  (questionable) style and no substance.

10. Collaborate

Collaboration is a beautiful thing. A data sheet will go through many different stages of development, rather than starting from scratch every time - a costly and painful process - using a cloud-based software will enable you to create, update and manage information as your product matures and develops. This is particularly true for technology and software developers, where great strides can be made in a matter of days or weeks which can vastly change the accessibility and use of a product.