When providing document files for people to read online, the main concern should be for the user experience and access.


User Exprience

Occasionally, website managers need to post a link to a document. This should be done sparingly in most circumstances and only as a rare alternative to creating webpages in websites. When posting files for people to read and download, the main concern should be for the user experience and access:

  • Will users need special software to download and view the file?
  • Will users have the correct version of that software?
  • How much of the user's data plan gets consumed by downloading the file?
  • Does a user have adequate and reliable connectivity?
  • Is it possible to load or download the file for users without access to high-speed broadband?
  • Will visually impaired and blind users be able to access the document with a screen reader?
  • Will documents be visible and readable on all devices, including screen readers?

Document Management Complexity

Whether or not it's worthwhile to post and link to PDF and Word documents also has a lot to do with the complexity of managing files, including versioning, planning, layout, design, and accessibility for all users. The difficulty of either creating accessible documents or fixing documents others have created to ensure accessibility is much more time-consuming and skill intensive than it is to create webpages for content that are meant for users to read. Complexities of managing documents include:

  • Uniform access to the software programs necessary for creating and fixing documents (MS Word, Adobe Acrobat Pro, Adobe InDesign, others)
  • Access to skilled document designers is often variable
  • Versioning and datedness of documents (version management with updates)
  • Managing archives of documents as a necessity