Documents are traditionally published as PDF or Word documents when they are shared online.

While these formats make sure the document will visually look the same across different computers, these formats exclude people with disability and make it harder for website visitors to access the information.

For this reason, the Information Access Group advocates for publishing documents in HTML as webpages. Webpages are the most accessible format for information published online.

Publishing documents as webpages has the following benefits:

  • Better experience for mobile users – if a webpage is designed to be responsive, the content will resize to suit the user’s device. This means the content is much easier for people to read on mobile devices, compared to a PDF, which is a fixed page size. This also benefits users with low vision and users with limited dexterity.

  • Faster to load than PDF – webpages load incrementally, whereas PDFs need to be completely downloaded before they are usable. People on slow connections might leave your site before the PDF has finished downloading. Whereas if they are viewing a webpage, they can read the text while the images load.

  • Better experience for people who use assistive technology – HTML webpages have much better support for screen reader software, compared to PDF viewer applications.

  • Searchability for your users – publishing the document as a webpage makes it easier for users to find information inside the document using the search box on your website. Information inside PDFs is not searchable by most CMS search functions.

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) – like the point above, publishing the document as a webpage also makes it easier for search engines like Google to find the information. Google ranks webpages higher than PDF documents, so this approach will help your SEO ranking.