Mozilla Foundation Design

Mozilla Foundation Design

PDFs

Why should you use a webpage instead of linking directly to download a PDF?

It’s a better user experience for our readers.

  • Responsive: Users can read it on any screen size, including mobile and tablet users who make up half of our traffic.
  • Accessibility: Users can use screen readers/text to speech and Google translate. Adjust the font size, text contrast, or choose light or dark mode.
  • Shareability & Discoverability: Users can easily copy and paste content on a website or share the URL. They are also more likely to discover our content when using search engines.
  • User flow: Users can have a more seamless experience. PDFs disconnected from the web browsing experience, especially if there are links and interactive elements within the PDF that link to websites.
  • Reduce bandwidth: Users can have more control over their internet bandwidth consumption. PDFs can have a large and mysterious file size.

It helps support our key enduring metrics.

  • Increase website traffic: Directing users to our site increases our site traffic, whereas directing them to directly download a PDF does not.
  • Increases engagement: Directing users to our site increases our chances of people exploring our site and deepening their engagement with actions like email signups, donations, and signing a petition.
  • Improves our SEO:
    • Backlinks (external sites linking to our site) from press and other external sites are huge for increasing our SEO ranking which is critical if we want to grow our audience and reach.
  • Shareability & Discoverable: PDFs hide the content away and have no metadata which causes poorer SEO performance of the content by search engines. Having the content on a webpage increases the chances of someone coming across it when they do a search. Webpages are also easier for people to share.
  • Analytics: We can learn more about our audiences and what content is resonating with them. Site analytics can help us determine how long people spend on the page to see if they are reading it, which pages they are spending more time on, what they are clicking on, where they came from and where they are. None of which can be done with PDFs.
  • Editable: Updating PDFs, particularly when they are created in non-open design software and/or when they have been created externally, is impossible or extremely difficult. Web pages on Wagtail can be edited directly by any CMS user.
  • Translatable: Creating and editing PDFs can also be more problematic when they are in multiple languages since translators cannot edit them themselves, like they can on our webpages.

It is on brand.

  • As a leader in the tech field we need to adhere to the best accessibility and tech standards by creating web accessible content. In some cases web accessibility advocates have even converted some of our PDFs to HTML out of frustration (as in this case of this user created conversion of “With Great Tech Comes Great Responsibility”).

Notes:

  • Further reading: Downside of PDFs which states that the only time people might have reason to use the PDF format is if they intend for the content to be printed - and even then it's good to have an HTML version alongside it.
  • Our Article/Publication pages still offer a PDF download option for users that still prefer this format. The challenge here is keeping the 2 up to date - so even then, it's probably only worth using a PDF if it's a lengthy doc that needs printing (like a manual).
  • The design team is currently working to add more components and features to our Article/Publication pages types to make them more customizable and interactive.