The other day, I clicked on a link in Twitter about an event I was interested in attending. I then needed to click one or two more times before I found a PDF that had the information about the event on it.
Don’t count on the average visitor to your website being so persistent!
In fact, I advise against using PDFs as being the only way that information is available on your website. You might use them for longer documents but even then I’d suggest having an Issuu.com version available for most people.
You might think it makes sense to turn your poster or program guide into a PDF. It’s quick and easy and hopefully looks great.
Make content easy to find
Every time you make someone click, you’re going to lose some people. PDFs risk losing even more people because you often don’t know what it is that you’re opening and whether it’s worth the time and effort. Sure it doesn’t take much time or effort but generally it takes longer than opening a web page and requires more time to find out if your leap of faith was worth the time.
Why hide information in a PDF that is easily put onto a page on your website? People want information as quickly as possible. They are more likely to see it on a webpage, the content helps your search engine optimization and the content is easier to find for people using your site’s search tool.
Think about it. You are trying to make your website as easy as possible to use for your visitor’s–not to make your life or job easier by quickly putting something on your website.
The best reason to put up a PDF is if you want people to be able to print material and have it look good. A poster for an event is a good example but that is secondary to having the info on your web page. It should NOT be the only way people can find out about the event.
I’ve covered many of these points before in my 20 tips for preparing content for your website but I’d like to re-emphasize them.
New reasons to avoid PDFs on your website
I decided to write this post because there are a couple new–and important–reasons to avoid using PDFs on your website.
The first: Pinterest
Pinterest is the hottest social network around. It LOVES images. But you can’t pin a PDF. Need I say more? If anything, you should be looking at ways to add more visual content and the kind that people will find interesting enough to pin. But it needs to be an image on your website not something that is hidden on a PDF.
I wanted to pin the event I mentioned off the top. I couldn’t.
The second: Storify
When I was using Storify to create a recap of a NTC session on redesigning websites, I wanted to add a link to a flowchart. I ran into difficulty because it was a PDF and so didn’t include a direct link. Storify likes images but they need to be attached to a tweet or an image file on a website.
Help yourself get noticed and get results
In short, there are more and more reasons to avoid taking the easy way out and slapping content onto your website as a PDF. Yes, you can say it’s on the website. But it’s not the friendliest or easiest way for your visitors to access it. And now doing so also creates a barrier to having people share your content via popular social media tools.
Do yourself a favour and avoid using PDFs to deliver content on your website.