How to publish PDF documents

"For online reading PDF is the monster from the Black Lagoon. It puts its clammy hands all over people with a cruel grip that doesn't let go."

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox - 14 July 2003

PDF documents should never be published in isolation. Instead, create a standalone page that introduces the download document and maybe also incorporates an image of the front cover of the particular document.

Prefacing statutory plans or strategy document downloads

A summary page that explains the purpose of the document and highlights its principal contents should precede any statutory plans and strategy documents.

This will enable users to see if the document contains the information they are looking for.

"Spare your users the misery of being dumped into PDF files without warning. Create special gateway pages that summarize the contents of big documents and guide users gently into the PDF morass.

"Unfortunately, users who are dumped into your PDF files will rarely turn into loyal customers, since they're not going to benefit from your site-wide navigation and visit other parts of the site. Also, most of those users will never find what they were looking for (because it's probably on page 82), so while they might visit once, they're not going to think very highly of your site."

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox - 28 July 2003

PDF and search engines

Many search engines don't pick up the contents of PDF documents terribly well. If you don't have a preface web page for your report, the search engine may not pick up as a resource for the particular information you are publishing.

By publishing a preface page your PDF document has at least one web page that covers its subject matter and will thus be more easily identified and located.

This page was last updated on 3 October 2009

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