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Avoid PDF overload

Posting PDF versions (PDFs) of original documents on your site would seem to be an obvious alternative to rewriting your content in web format. Unfortunately, posting too many PDFs can work against your goal of retaining users. The Nielsen Norman Group has done multiple studies on PDFs and has consistently found that users hate them and avoid reading them at all costs.

PDF files:

  • Are slow to open and can sometimes crash the browser
  • Are not mobile-friendly
  • Are difficult for some users to read

If you need to post a PDF, include information about the file on a description page instead of simply linking to the file. Include:

  • What the PDF is about
  • How large the file is
  • Who might find the information helpful


  • Remember to follow Section 508 guidelines when using PDFs. See for more information about web accessibility.

  • The Minnesota IT Services site includes a helpful guide to making accessible electronic documents, including PDFs, Word documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.