PDFs were designed for printing....on paper....not for viewing on the computer screen.


Have you ever gotten to the document you have been searching for, noticed it was a PDF, and let out an annoyed sigh. (Or is this just me?)  Let's face it, PDFs break the exploratory nature of communities.  When a user hits a PDF, the only usable way to ingest the document is to download it locally.  This takes users out of the community.  Below are some strong points for finally retiring PDFs on webpages.

  • First, all viewers/renderers for PDFs are the antithesis of user friendly (Check out this article addressing the issue from the Nielson Norman Group: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/pdf-unfit-for-human-consumption/). In order to effectively read through the document, users download and open it locally, breaking the community exploration workflow.  The PDF viewer has its own set of controls/navigation, making it difficult to navigate within the context of the site & browser controls.
  • Second, and the most important issue with PDFs on webpages, is that the document loses version tracking from one version to the next.  When authors make an update, users don't know if it was a massive update or just a small fix.  With Jive version tracking, modifications are displayed inline:



  • Third, documents lose modifier information unless authors explicitly include that information in the document.  Since this metadata is tracked automatically in Jive, authors don't have to worry about keeping track of what changes were made and by whom.
  • Lastly, documents lose important community interconnectivity.  @Mentions are fast and easy ways to link related materials. @Mentioning documents assists users in the exploring workflow.  You may have noticed some analytics on the right-hand side of documents:



    These links let users know about discussions around this document, as well as documents that mention the current document specifically.  This allows users to make investigational jumps in the system to related topics and hopefully resolve their issue quicker.


If you must use PDFs, I suggest following these guidelines to provide the best user experience with PDFs online: Best Practices for Using PDFs on Web Pages