CMS Guide

Using PDFs

Have you ever uploaded a document to your website instead of creating a web page? While it may seem like a way to save time, PDFs should be used sparingly. Here’s why.

  • PDFs are not inherently accessible. All PDFs (and other files) uploaded to Brandeis websites must be reviewed for accessibility. Inaccessible PDFs create barriers to content consumption for visitors using assistive technology, such as a screen reader. 

  • HTML pages are better for search engine optimization (SEO) than PDFs. Search engines don’t crawl PDFs the same way they crawl web pages, which makes it harder for people to find the content they are looking for.

  • PDFs are frustrating to use on mobile devices. Nearly half of our website traffic is coming from mobile.

Need to make a PDF accessible quickly? Consider contacting our preferred vendor, Crawford Technologies, for a quote.

When to Use a PDF

Occasionally, you might decide you have a need to upload a PDF to your website. Here are some examples of when a PDF might be appropriate:

  • Forms that require a signature or multiple signatures.
  • Documents in a foreign language.
  • Long documents, like training manuals.

When Not to Use a PDF

  • Course flyers or lists of courses — this information should be on a web page, linking to the Schedule of Classes. See an example course listing page.
  • Event flyers — this information should be on a web page. See an example events page.
  • Job postings/announcements — this information should be on a web page.

What You Need to Do

  • Evaluate how your site uses PDFs. Be intentional using the examples above as guidance.
  • Use the content from within your PDF as content on a web page whenever possible.
  • Delete PDFs that are not being used by checking Relationships and removing old content.
  • Make sure any PDF being used on your site is accessible. If necessary, get a quote for PDF remediation from our preferred vendor, Crawford Technologies.

Note: PDFs and other documents used on the Brandeis websites must be accessible.

A Note on Accessibility

Brandeis University is committed to providing information on the web that is available to all people, regardless of physical or developmental abilities or impairments. Read our full Accessibility Statement or sign up for Accessibility Training (mandatory for all web editors using the new standard university templates).