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When PDF goes BAD: the UX of PDF


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PDF is a popular format for publishing content online - often because it make it fast an easy to get content online. However, if not used and designed appropriately, PDF can create a range of usability and accessibility problems.

Published in: Technology
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When PDF goes BAD: the UX of PDF

  1. 2. <ul><li>B = before </li></ul><ul><li>A = after </li></ul><ul><li>D = during </li></ul>
  2. 3. Before you get the PDF doc <ul><li>Content not identified clearly </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor link text </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Format and size not identified </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some surprises aren’t welcome </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile users and data costs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No ‘gateway’ page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What’s in it? Do I really want it? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Problems with social media linking </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t want a (large) PDF, but there’s no other option </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes turns users off </li></ul></ul>
  3. 4. After you’re done with the PDF doc <ul><li>Closing PDF accidentally closes browser </li></ul><ul><li>Felt it wasn’t worth the effort </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Trawling a large doc for a small piece of info </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Downloading a huge file </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Couldn’t see the point of it being a PDF </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple web page would have been better </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thought you were being lazy </li></ul></ul>
  4. 5. During use of the PDF doc <ul><li>Downloading problems </li></ul><ul><li>Navigation problems </li></ul><ul><li>Design problems </li></ul><ul><li>Restrictions on use </li></ul>
  5. 6. Downloading problems <ul><li>File bigger than anticipated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can’t stop the download to back out </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Slow to open </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interrupts ‘flow’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Craaaaaaaaaaash! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can’t get the information </li></ul></ul>
  6. 7. Navigation problems (1) <ul><li>Table of contents not linked </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most users don’t know keyboard shortcuts, so lots of scrolling </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No bookmarks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If no TOC, then no easy way to navigate a long PDF </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Bookmarks, but not shown by default </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Surprising number of users don’t know how to use PDF UI </li></ul></ul>
  7. 9. Navigation problems (2) <ul><li>Words (or TOC) are links, but don’t look like links </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accidental clicks, accidental exits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Users want to use TOC, but some don’t realise they can </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Links aren’t active </li></ul><ul><ul><li>URLs users would have to copy and paste </li></ul></ul>
  8. 11. Navigation problems (3) <ul><li>Page number references in text that cause chaos </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Multi-part document and page is in another file (which user may not have downloaded) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mismatch between numbers in doc and numbers in PDF </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Docs with different section numbering </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Multi-part documents </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 13. Design problems (1) <ul><li>Large images </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Longer downloads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More scrolling! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wasted paper/ink if printed </li></ul></ul>
  10. 15. Design problems (1) <ul><li>Spreads or landscape layout </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Horizontal and vertical scrolling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy to miss some of the content </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Multi-column layout </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scroll back up or keep going down? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Move from bottom right to top left? </li></ul></ul>
  11. 20. Restrictions <ul><li>Restricted printing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can be frustrating, especially if long and hard to read on screen </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Restricted copying text/images </li></ul><ul><ul><li>May be legitimate reasons for use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your copyright/IP is protected by law </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Determined users can get around this </li></ul></ul>
  12. 21. Accessibility problems <ul><li>Neil discussed these </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poorly designed source documents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Headings, tables, lists, text alts for images, contrast, colour </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Text boxes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assistive technology limitations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Users’ skills </li></ul></ul>
  13. 22. <ul><li>How to use PDF for good, not BAD! </li></ul>
  14. 23. Appropriate use <ul><li>Use PDF online when </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Distributing a resource that is intended for print or further distribution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offering a print or downloadable version of web content </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Avoid PDF when </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Users will need to interact with content online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When you’re tempted to use it because it’s easier or faster to publish </li></ul></ul>
  15. 24. PDF use in ‘grey areas’ (1) <ul><li>We live in the real world, so there will be ‘grey areas’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not sure if someone will need to interact online with your PDF? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can’t get resources to make web version of content? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publishing PDF as the only version of content? </li></ul></ul>
  16. 25. PDF use in ‘grey areas’ (2) <ul><li>Design and tag for accessibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Neil discussed key techniques </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Comply with policy on use of PDF </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor AGIMO activity, Australian Human Rights Commission </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Design to avoid a BAD user experience … </li></ul>
  17. 26. Inform users (1) <ul><li>Write meaningful link text </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid ‘click here’, ‘download this file’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Include a document title </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shows in search results, affects ranking </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Set window to show title rather than file name </li></ul></ul>
  18. 27. Inform users (2) <ul><li>Include a PDF warning in the link </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t use an unusual PDF icon </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Text can be enlarged </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Include the file size warning in the link </li></ul><ul><li>Set link to open in a new window </li></ul>
  19. 28. Eliminate PDF ‘shock’ <ul><li>Create a ‘gateway’ page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide a summary or description of the content in the PDF along with the link </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct links and search engines to this page, not the PDF document </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Break large files into a set of smaller ones </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Label each clearly and provide a summary or description if needed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offer a single-file download as well </li></ul></ul>
  20. 29. Support navigation (1) <ul><li>Make links active and obvious </li></ul><ul><ul><li>URLs should be links </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Text that is linked should look like a link </li></ul></ul>
  21. 30. Support navigation (2) <ul><li>Provide navigation through a longer document </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Table of contents as active links or use bookmarks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Set initial view to show ‘Bookmarks Panel and Page’ </li></ul></ul>
  22. 31. Support navigation (3) <ul><li>Consider alternatives to page number references </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use chapter or section names </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Otherwise check page references and numbering in PDF and change if needed </li></ul></ul>
  23. 32. Support navigation (4) <ul><li>Open pages panel </li></ul><ul><li>Select pages </li></ul><ul><li>Right click and open ‘Number Pages’ </li></ul>
  24. 33. Design for on-screen use (1) <ul><li>Avoid large images </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Especially when decorative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Except maps, diagrams and so on </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Or set initial view to ‘Pages Panel and Page’ </li></ul>
  25. 35. Design for on-screen use (2) <ul><li>Avoid spread layouts </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid multi-column layouts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid content sections that flow to a second column or page </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If using horizontal layout, set initial view to ‘Fit Page’ magnification </li></ul>
  26. 36. Rely on legal protections <ul><li>Don’t lock up a PDF </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Allow copying </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allow printing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t publish it online if you don’t want anyone to use it! </li></ul>
  27. 37. <ul><li>No more BAD PDF = no more sad, mad users. Only glad ones! </li></ul>