One scary reason to ditch PDFs from your website

PDFs are stuffed with links. Links break. Get rid of PDFs. Problem solved.

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It’s a chore to clean broken links from your website, but there are plenty of tools to help you do the job.

Thing is, even the best tools can’t peer inside your PDFs – and PDFs are often stuffed with links.

So what should you do?

The answer is the same as it’s been since Jakob Nielsen wrote about the usability horrors of PDFs back in 2001: stop publishing PDFs on your site. The exceptions? Documents which are going to be printed could get a stay of execution – think specification sheets, instruction manuals and timetables.

And yes, we have a couple of PDFs on our site – they’re detailed documents about our training courses. The kind of things you’d print off and flash in front of a colleague.

The benefits of a PDF cull

By moving content from PDFs to HTML pages, you make it much easier to clean busted links. It's also a good excuse for a cull: if the content in a PDF doesn’t help meet the user’s purpose, it shouldn’t be there.

Killing PDFs also helps with mobile usability and accessibility. Sure, PDFs look pretty good on tablets, but they’re pretty horrible to read on phones – even today’s monster screens. With most of our clients now seeing 25-50% of their traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s nuts to publish lots of PDFs. Especially if there are broken links lying in wait.

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