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PDF Usage Tips

As you continue to prepare for your new site, we would like all web editors to understand how PDFs should be used on Brandeis websites.

Have you ever uploaded a PDF 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. Approximately one-third of our website traffic is now coming from mobile.

When to Use a PDF

Occasionally, you might decide 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.
  • Transfer PDF content to 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. Visit the Web Accessibility website to learn more.

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).

Note: Any PDF used on the new standard university web templates must be accessible. Accessibility training for all editors will coincide with your website migration.