No matter how tempting it is, you should never use a PDF to display content that users need to read online. After20 years of watching用户对使用PDF或常规网页的各种站点进行类似的任务,一件事仍然确定:PDFS降低了用户体验。


PDFs are meant for distributing documents that users will print. They’re optimized for paper sizes, not browser windows or modern device viewports. We often see users getlost in PDFsbecause the print-oriented view provides only a small glimpse of the content. Users can’tscan and scroll在网页上的PDF中。内容在纸张上分开,这对于印刷文件很好,但在线导致严重的可用性问题。

PDFs also use lots of heavy, dense text and elaborate graphics which increase their file size and, subsequently, the time they take to download. Theylack navigation和其他接口元素,帮助用户维护上下文并以速度和轻松通过数字内容移动。由于发现信息变得挑战和耗时,因此无法导航的无法缩小。可点击的内容表通常在PDF中引入PSSudo导航,但用户仍然慢下来,并且无法找到所需的内容。指某东西的用途命令或者控制+ F在所有用户中找到PDF中的内容。有些用户将利用这些快捷方式,但其他用户不会。

由于环境问题,PDF作为印刷车辆的有用性也在递减。许多组织和个人现在正在加强强调可持续性, 和, therefore, think twice before printing off a lengthy document that could and should otherwise be formatted and structured for online consumption.

Why PDFs Are Still Prevalent

PDF仍然是常用的,因为人们错误地假设发布了PDF在线的速度比创建网页更快,更容易,所以这就是所做的一切。但是,您仍然必须计划,写和设计您将在PDF中放入的内容。为什么不在可访问的HTML页面上花费那个时间,即properly written, and formatted for the web?例如,当我们要求Intranet团队领导她的团队时内容管理进程, she said,



In some cases, PDFs are preferred because they give less-savvy content creators a sense of ownership, control, and protection over the message and layout. They may feel that moving the content from a PDF to a webpage will relinquish some of that control; or, maybe, they don’t think they can post the content effectively in a webpage. They could also refuse to acknowledge how bad PDF is for usability, assuming it’s good enough the way it is. In another example, when we asked a content manager what instigates changes to the intranet, she said,

“Normally we get a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet. Sometimes it’s a PDF. For anything that I link to on the intranet, I will convert it to a PDF”

There are legitimate cases when policies must exist in PDF format on a公司网站或Intranet(例如法律原因),但这并不意味着PDF是应该存在内容的唯一格式。PDF通常通过公司通信和法律团队常见,所以难怪他们经常进入Intranet和公司网站。在实地考察中,我们观察了一个内容经理,试图确保PDF是最新的;她为一位同事制作了一封电子邮件,称,

“Hello! I have the attached PDF documents available for our intranet site. Is the information still valid? Or do you have anything else we can share?”


“This is a hobby. We have a coordinator who usually posts content, but she is out, and I like changing activities. So, since I can do it, I just do it.”

Guidelines for Using PDFs

如果你在你的经验,必须包括一个PDF follow these guidelines to make it as usable as possible and to lend a smooth transition from a digital to a paper-based experience. Again, a PDF should never be used to display digital content that users will read online. It’s only suitable for print.

1. Gather evidence to understand whether users need and expect to print out a PDF.Which documents fall in this category? Well, you need to conduct research such asfield studies,usability testing, 和背景询问IES.找出答案。提供一个大型文件的PDF版本,如报告或手动,或简单的东西可以作为单页自助餐厅菜单或Sprint日历scrum team。It will all depend on your users’ context and reading preference, relative to the content and task. If you find users don’t want to print out a document, explore a better数字的format in which to serve the message.

2.当您创建它时,使PDF可访问。PDF并不是固有的。有额外的工作需要完成,以确保它是包容性的;你不能只是出口它并假设它很好。必须搜索文本,字体必须允许将字符提取到文本,并且必须将表单字段标记为交互式,并包含具有正确时序的错误消息。用户应该能够使用键盘访问书签,并且PDF上的安全设置不得干扰屏幕阅读器功能。在头条新闻,段落,表和其他元素上的结构标签需要设置为定义阅读顺序,以及alt.text must be included on all images. Color should not be used to convey meaning and there must also be proper前景和背景之间的对比。

3. Create an HTML gateway page that gives users the information they need, without forcing them to read a PDF in a browser.网关页面HTML网页是否总结了PDF中否则发现的核心消息。它们在登录页面上提供了足够的细节,以便用户在浏览器窗口中不必读取PDF以获取所需的信息。他们仍然可以以熟悉的数字格式获取关键的外卖,并选择下载完整的PDF。最好的网关页面具有根据Web写入的最佳实践格式化和结构的内容。它们清楚地标记了下载PDF的链接,包括页面数和文件大小,密切接近链接。此信息将帮助用户决定PDF是否值得下载。

如果技术上的限制阻碍你creating HTML gateway pages for your PDFs, collaborate with experts on web-publishing principles to create a template for an HTML gateway page. Leveraging better methods and skillsets to convert legacy PDFs to web pages will pay dividends in time saved and preservation of the user experience in the long run. With tremendous advancements in web-content management and the ease with which people can publish online content today, there’s no reason why we should still see so many PDFs. You don’t need sophisticated coding skills to create a web page and reliance on developers to post content is much less than it was 20 years ago.

The American Cancer Society used HTML gateway pages to house their reports. Users can review content directly on the page or have multiple options for downloading the full PDF.

4.考虑PDF是否应在一个中打开new window或者tab, the same window or tab, or should directly download.这是另一种需要观察研究的指导,因为正确的答案可能与观众和任务的相关方式不同。For situations where the PDF will be used as a reference while completing some other flow (e.g., when the PDF has instructions for a process), it’s helpful to have it open in a new tab or a new window, so users can easily switch attention between the main flow and the reference. However, if the PDF is likely to be used by itself, then having it in a different tab can burden users by increasing browser clutter (too many tabs). And, on mobile, multiple tabs are often confusing and hard to manage.

For example, in our recent intranet research, many employees had several browser tabs open at a time to complete their work. When they encountered a PDF (or several) that opened in yet another new tab, they often wanted to stop and pause between tasks to clean up their tabs. This housekeeping behavior indicated that users felt the interface became cluttered or unmanageable. In certain PDF contexts, it might make sense to keep users in the same window or tab, so they can click theBack按钮返回上一页。但是,使用PDF完成后,我们经常看到用户关闭浏览器窗口而不是单击Backbutton, so they lose their navigation history.


5. Link to the gateway page, not the PDF.如果您有相应的网关页面,请不要让搜索引擎索引PDF文件。相反,确保您的HTML网关页面由内部站点搜索和外部搜索引擎索引。我们经常在内部搜索结果中看到PDF排名高于HTML页面(可能是因为大文件可能包含大量的背景信息和多个关键字)。当用户突然被抛弃到PDF文件中时,可用性遭受,特别是如果它只是提到通过第47页的传递所需的信息。包括指示搜索结果上的PDF的图标,也没有真正帮助。虽然它最初可能会对用户遇到的内容进行预期,但它并不能让他们到达PDF后的张力。

PDF icons that sit next to search result listings.

6. Don’t be too quick to convert your documents to the latest PDF version.与任何软件一样多users are slow to upgradewhen updates become available. There are still many people and organizations who use older PDF readers, so save your documents in an earlier PDF version to help users avoid issues when opening the document.

7.争取最小的PDF文件大小而不牺牲质量。Make sure the file size of your PDF isn’t so large that it will take forever to download. Or, even worse, crash the users’ browsers or cause them to use an excessive amount of cellular data. Reduce the size by making sure only the most necessary information is included and that image sizes are reduced to balance size with quality of display.


WISKI CAT的PDF很好地格式化了移动观看。
Wiski Cat's PDF is formatted nicely for print or browser-viewing.
It’s still not pleasant to read this PDF in a browser window, but it’s much better than many of the other PDFs we’ve seen posted online. Users printing this out to assemble a product would find it easy to read and follow due to the plain language, large font, and simple imagery used.

9. Remove or archive previous versions of the PDF and update links from the old version to the new.PDFs have a way of perpetuating stale content, and HTML pages always seem more recent and fresher to users. In our usability research on corporate websites and intranets, when participants encountered old PDFs, they lost trust and questioned the legitimacy of the corresponding information. In some cases, people spent additional time looking for a more recent version of the PDF to check the accuracy of the information. Audit your content and remove old or previous versions of PDFs. When versions are updated, check to make sure links point to the new version, not the old one. If for some reason an old PDF still needs to live on your site, clearly and legibly state what the most recent version is and where users can find it. Do this on the very first page and throughout the PDF. In addition to the date of the last update, include contact information where users can get help.

10.提供多种格式,而不仅仅是PDF。Give users a choice in how they consume your content; don’t just limit them to a PDF. Consider if users will appreciate also having an audio version to listen to, a version that’s specifically formatted for an ereader, or another format altogether that communicates the message while supporting the user’s task and context. Advances in technology have afforded improvements to ereaders, tablets, and mobile reading apps. These options have made reading on digital devices comfortable and convenient, whereas, in years past, this wasn’t always the case and printing was required. While PDFs can be read by most ereaders, offering只要a PDF can make your experience seem inconsiderate and outdated.

ACM offers multiple formats for their newsletter.
The Association for Computing Machinery offered users the option to view their content as either an HTML page, a PDF, or with an ereader.


最近的第四版研究intranet-guidelines report和我们的第三版corporate-website report再次发现用户直接转换为在线阅读的PDF文件时,重新发现严重的可用性问题。在Intranets,员工手册,表单和政策中需要被分解为聚焦的网页而不是以PDF格式作为单个BLOB抛出。在公司网站上,即使能够下载和打印年度报告是良好的,必须以简单的格式提供在线阅读的财务信息,这些格式易于导航。

In certain cases, including a downloadable PDF might be warranted. However, more often than not, people won’t need to print out the PDF, and the decision to house content in a PDF is based much less on critical thinking and user-centered evidence and more on the false pretenses of PDFs being faster to create and easier to control than web pages. In any case, PDF should never be used for on-screen reading. Don’t force your users to suffer and slog through PDFs!