Web accessibility tip: Create HTML web pages rather than documents

HTML (web pages) vs. PDF

Web accessibility graphic.Reading HTML online is generally a better experience than reading a PDF online. With good HTML, the user can choose a font size so the text is easy to read, and the paragraphs are laid out to match the user's preference.

  • PDF's don't open in the browser on all platforms. On most mobile devices, a PDF needs to be downloaded and opened in a reader (time and data plan implications).
  • PDF's are more difficult to make accessible than HTML.
  • PDF's take more time to be updated and, if downloaded by the user, can't be updated at all.
  • People link to HTML pages and share them more frequently than PDFs or other documents.

In general, content should be in the native medium and on a website, that should be HTML whenever possible.

Need help converting PDF into HTML?

We have a how-to document to help with Converting PDF documents into HTML.

When to use a PDF

PDF should only be used when a printed copy is what is meant to be the final product and it is imperative that the formatting be precise on the resulting printout.

Always indicate a PDF link. Don't expect your readers to look at the link location before they click - tell them up front that the link they are about to click is a PDF e.g. Test document (PDF). Even when the browser opens a PDF inside the browser window, it can be a jarring experience. Usually the PDF is in a different design style from the website and this can confuse people.