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Using PDFs Appropriately

Today I ran across a short article (Avoid PDF for On-Screen Reading) about PDFs and using them on the web which I thought would be good to share with my web site contributor friends.

But if you absolutely don’t have the time, here’s a pithy quote from it that captures the essence: “No matter how tempting it might be, you should never use PDF for content that you expect users to read online.”

So, what are PDFs good for?

  • Providing a format for documents that doesn’t rely on proprietary software
  • Forms that need to be filled and printed
  • Large documentation/handbook-type documents that might need to be stored on a personal computer or printed


What happens because of bad PDF use?

  • Poor accessibility (how available your content is to all users, including those with disabilities)
  • Poor user experience (users have to switch behaviors from web to document)
  • Opportunity for non-web copy, inconsistency in brand, outdated documents


Are you an abuser? Take a look at your pages. Are there PDFs that could be web pages instead? Look at your Media Library. Is it littered with outdated PDFs?

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