Stop adding PDFs to your website

Wireframe for webpage design. Sussex New Media. Kill the PDF

Stop adding PDFs to your website

I’m often asked to create webpages to house PDFs. I regularly advise against the practice and I try to explain why I don’t recommend using PDFs on public websites.

Endless hours are spent on formatting PDF documents that are then uploaded to a webpage. Sooner or later that PDF will need to be updated and the current version on the site will need to be replaced. So what happens to the old version downloaded by your readers?

I’m not opposed to PDFs, they are best used for internal purposes and for printing. Once PDFs are made public, there are limitations with having them on your public website.

What are the limitations of the PDF in today’s digital age?

  • Once PDFs are published on your site, the downloaded files can’t be retrieved, edited or updated.
  • In 2018, 52.2% of all worldwide online traffic was generated through mobile phones. PDFs are not designed with mobile in mind. They are hard to read on mobile devices and rich media like videos can’t be added.
  • PDFs provides no data on user engagement. When PDFs are downloaded there is no way of knowing if they clicked on any links, if it was shared, or post about it online.
  • PDFs do not ranks well in search results unlike HTML pages. Although PDFs can be indexed for search engines, they are not given the same priority as HTML pages.

Solution to stop using PDFs

There is a simple solution to stop adding PDF documents on your webpages.

Create custom landing pages for your eBooks and whitepapers.

Use all the web best practices to provide rich and engaging content:

  • Include images
  • Add call to actions
  • Use lazy loading to take visitors through the sections of the content
  • Incorporate forms that submit directly to request a copy of the PDF or for information
  • Include explanation videos to simplify certain information
  • Make the content scannable and easy to navigate

Transforming a PDF into a full HTML page provides data on user engagement. It lets you know:

  • how long readers stayed on pages; and
  • how they engaged with the content (video views, completed forms, social shares).

Creating HTML pages makes it easy to edit and update information on the page.

Old habits die hard, still include the option to download the PDF as visitors still look for that button.

Sussex can get you started on transforming your PDFs into engaging webpages. Contact us to learn how we can help.