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A guide to using PDF documents on business websites (Part 3)

Having found out what PDF files you actually have on your website, as we did yesterday, it’s time to see if they’re any good. The first thing I like to tackle is size. In the past, websites often used to show the size of a PDF “download” next to the link, because they knew many people were on slow dial-up internet connections and were scared of how big this unknown file might be. Now we’re all on high-speed broadband, so it doesn’t matter, right?

Wrong again. Plenty of visits to your website will be on smartphones using 3G (or worse), and some of these visits will be really important ones (after all, anyone wanting your PDF documents on a mobile data connection must really want that information). Some of these visitors won’t have the time or the data allowance to access a huge PDF document, and they’ll be quite aware of that. If it doesn’t appear in a few seconds, they’ll hit the “cancel” button, for sure.

Any really big, multi-megabyte PDF files on your website need to be replaced with more sensible versions of a few hundred kB (or even much less). It’s quite likely they’re just lazily-created ones, which include completely unnecessary high-resolution photographs. All you need to shrink these in size dramatically is a copy of Adobe Acrobat or some other PDF file manipulation software; Mac users can even do this with the built-in “Preview” application.

Beware however the multi-megabyte PDF files which are that size because they aren’t proper PDF documents, but are just image scans sitting in a PDF container. These need to be replaced at all costs, because they’re way over size, probably look embarrassingly poor, and cannot be recognised at all by Google.

Next: Part 4

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