PDF documents and the mobile experience

We recently hit the milestone of having the first of our clients start getting more than 50% of its website traffic on mobile devices. This is an outlier, as for most industrial and scientific businesses it seems like 20% is more normal …but it’s a sign of where things are going. If you’re thinking “I’m prepared for that, I have a nice responsive site, which reformats well on small screens”, well done.

But there may be something you’re conveniently forgetting: PDF documents.

There’s no way around it: reading most PDF A4 documents on a mobile phone varies from irritatingly awkward to just about impossible. And, of course, PDF documents don’t index as well as normal web pages in Google. So the solution is not to inconvenience your prospects, customers and the search engines by making a PDF document the only way they can access important data. Providing a PDF brochure or data sheet for people to print out is a perfectly decent thing to do. Using its existence as an excuse not to put the same information on a web page is less thoughtful.