3 reasons why pdf files shouldn't drive your content strategy

Technical communication is everything related to the creation and distribution of your company’s product support information. But while product documentation is created to help users - partners, suppliers, installers and customers - it’s not always user friendly! In fact, creating immersive and personalized experiences to all potential end users is one of today’s biggest challenges faced by marketers.

Product information is usually scattered through many downloadable PDF files on your website. Although PDFs have many advantages regarding layout and formatting, they are optimized for print rather on-screen reading, and thus pose some problems for user experience:

1. Insufficient search capabilities

Searching for information via a company website or search engines returns the complete PDF document. Users must then browse through several pages of content before finding the exact information they need.

To view information online in a way that lets readers rapidly understand what’s key, they need simple formats that don't require them to slowly page through presentations that are optimized for print rather than interaction. For example, rather than throwing a whole product manual on the web in PDF format, you should convert the content into a navigable information space.

2. Disconnected user interface

Because PDF is not the standard web page format, switching from the download website page to the actual PDF document can result in a disruptive feeling for the user. As these documents are usually not integrated with the main website, the user is forced to a distinct user interface where commands may work differently, hurting usability. Also, after finishing with a PDF document, users sometimes close the window instead of clicking the Back button, thus losing their navigation history.

3. Navigation inconsistency

PDF pages lack navigation bars and other features that help users to smoothly navigate back and forth and relate to the rest of the website. Because their content is designed for letter-sized sheets of paper, users likely get lost in their elaborate graphic layouts. Furthermore, even after compressing, PDF files with HD images can be quite large and slow to load or download.

This gets even worse on mobile, where different operating systems offer different support for PDF – some will open them directly in the browser windows, while others might force the download. Additionally, if the user wants to find the file later, navigating the download folders can be a challenge.


While paper manuals and electronic help files still have their place, with the proliferation of multimedia devices and digital gadgets, today’s customers demand content is delivered in their channel and format of choice.

By integrating the creation and management of the pre-sales and post-sales content into a single repository, your company is able to maintain a single content strategy and pipeline. Such an enterprise-wide solution connects technical and marketing teams, aligns content design, publishing and terminology (among other factors), and also maximizes opportunities for content sharing and reuse.  All this, while collecting users’ feedback to deliver seamless and consistent user experiences that drive sales and boost customer satisfaction.

This article was originally published here.

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