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Are your PDF documents inconvenient, bloated giants?

Continuing the theme of PDF documentation, which we’ve been covering this week here and here, I’d like to turn to the size of these documents. In these days of ultra-fast broadband, it’s easy to think that large documents are acceptable. They are not. Plenty of your prospects and customers will have poor internet connections, some will be accessing your website on 3G mobile devices, and a few might even have data caps. It’s very arrogant to assume that they want to read about your products so badly that they’ll be happy to wait for ages for a document to load, or even spend money doing so. There are plenty of occasions when I click “cancel” as a document downloads (and I realise how big it is), and I’m not alone.

Note also that documents which are oversize can be very difficult to email. You might be able to send it, but it’s quite possible that the recipient’s system will reject it (possibly without your knowledge). Giant documents can cause problems in all sorts of ways.

There’s no hard and fast rule about “how big is too big”, although I’d suggest that anything above 5-10Mb is always too big. Unless your PDF document is dozens of pages long, if it’s over 5Mb, the reason it’s so large is because it contains images which are too high resolution. This is unnecessary. Your customers want to read about your product, there’s no need to give them the same source document as you’d give to a high quality printer. Most companies do just that, however. The designer who created the PDF document for you in the first place should be asked to produce a more compact version for your website.

If you can’t go back to the source to get your PDF documents reduced in size, perhaps because you’ve been presented with the document by another manufacturer, all is not lost. The Adobe Acrobat application can compress existing files restrospectively by lowering the image resolution. This is well worth trying. As I’ve mentioned before, it costs you a lot of money to get somebody to your website, to the point where they’re viewing a product document. It’s criminal to throw that money away by giving them a document they’re not prepared to look at.

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