PDFs: We need to talk.

How to spot and counter the most common excuses for publishing PDFs on the web.

But first, a little history…

Problems with publishing PDFs on the web


Mobile user experience

No contest: Responsive HTML vs PDF when viewed on mobile

Content design

Open data and APIs

Search engine optimisation

Performance analysis, analytics, and insights

  • time on page
  • exit rate
  • links clicked
  • scroll depth
  • next page path
  • heat maps
  • in-page feedback.

Print costs

Spotting and countering excuses for PDFs

Excuse 5: “We need to upload it quickly”

Excuse 4: “We need to maintain our brand”

Excuse 3: “But it’s a long document”

A chart in the DVSA’s 2017–22 strategy. Users can switch between a visualised and a table view of the data.

Excuse 2: “People prefer PDFs”

Excuse 1: “We need to make it secure”



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Dan Craddock

Government digital professional. Product management, user research, content strategy and design, UI design, accessibility, performance analysis.