Category Archives: Random

When To Use a PDF

stack of pdf icons

Before I get into the pros and cons of using PDFs in your content, consider this – almost half of all website page views currently come from mobile users. This is important because, when it comes to viewing content, the easier it is to access, the better. And PDFs are just not conducive for viewing on small screens. There are, however, times when a PDF may be a viable option, but deciding whether or not to use one really depends on the content you are presenting.

When PDFs Can Be Useful

Printable Documents, Forms, & Flyers – If you are requiring people to download and fill out a static form or document (i.e., offline registration, etc.), a PDF is ideal because it preserves the original dimensions of your document. Whereas content designed for screens is meant to adapt to different devices and screen sizes. Flyers are also optimal as PDFs, but should only be used as supplemental material. Any critical information (the who, what, when, where, and why, registration URL, etc.) should be presented as text / HTML because it’s A LOT easier to view and update if your event/webinar/class information changes – there’s nothing you can do about a PDF that someone has already downloaded.

Newsletters – While I would still highly encourage you to add all your content as text / HTML on a page, a newsletter is one area that can benefit from being turned into a PDF. It allows for users to save the information to view and / or print out later and can provide more complex layout options (like a mix of columns and rows).

Tables – If you need to create a table that has so many data columns that it pushes your content out of the set content space and makes a user scroll horizontally, putting that data into a spreadsheet and creating a PDF would be a much better option.

When Not to Use PDFs

A PDF should not be a substitute for actual content on your page. If it can be created using text / HTML, that’s how it should be presented (again, there are some exceptions as seen above). Your ultimate goal should be to present information as easily and as readily accessible as you can for your audience, in as few clicks as possible.

Some things to think about:

  • PDFs don’t load well on mobile devices and require lots of pinching / panning / zooming, etc.
  • Some browsers force a file download instead of opening the PDF directly, which leads to multiple clicks to get to the content.
  • PDFs are limited in how much analytical data they can provide. For instance, we can tell exactly how long someone spends reading a webpage, but not a PDF.
  • Larger file sizes can be prohibitive for mobile users in rural areas or areas with a poor or limited data connection.
  • PDFs are not accessible to visually impaired users or users that must navigate with assistive technology (i.e., screen readers).
  • PDFs often don’t rank well in Google searches and don’t contribute to SEO for your content, which can make your message harder to find.
  • Users are not able to link to a specific part of the document like you can with a webpage.

The Strategic Approach to Saving Time and Effort

If you are familiar with the concept of focusing on your strengths, then perhaps you know why sometimes People, Teams or even Organizations fail.

Have learned through StrengthsFinders (not an endorsement - 😊) training and during multiple conversations with mentors, that it is best to focus on building up your strengths rather than focusing on improving upon your weaknesses. Many studies have demonstrated that trying to improve a weakness is far less constructive than spending time building up your strengths. Especially (imo) once you are over 25 and have a more solid assessment of your skills and abilities. And while there is great merit in emphasizing strength building activities you should still be cautious of using tools like Strengths-Finder, as it could result in a skewed view. A possible more accurate and objective assessment is by asking others, who know you very well, to fill out the questionnaire.

What many neglect to do in light of their deficient abilities in certain areas is to partner up with others whose strengths may complement their own. A colleague with a different skill set might be able to offer constructive advice or even assist to ensure you and others become more effective, collectively and independently. It is precisely this kind of situation that illustrates how important it is for leaders to diversify the skillsets on their Teams. Another issue is that wasting resources developing a skill beyond what is necessary when it isn’t something one is both good or passionate about is generally an unproductive use of our top commodity, Time! Individuals need to assess whether the time they invest to develop any skill is necessary and/or beneficial based on their top strengths and passion.

The strategy many well intentioned people employ is to get better at a lot of things at once — spreading the improvement in their abilities like one might spread peanut butter on toasted bread. And while this approach does help you improve, it can be because you are often concentrated on things you aren’t as efficient at where just a little effort goes a long way. This feedback loop of seeing progress is addicting (especially to dedicated people) so they spread themselves even thinner to get stronger in even more diverse areas. And while I admit this growth can be positive, I have seen it lead to stress and fatigue, having fallen victim to this strategy myself.

What if you instead could improve more swiftly and with expert resolve by focusing on just 1-3 strengths, mastering these abilities to become even stronger in those areas.

Unfortunately, what some of us often do is perform a root-cause analysis on their weaknesses, spending an inordinate amount of time self-reflecting. Thus descending into an introspective trap until finally discovering a valid excuse under which one can hide unnecessary guilt. The result usually is a waste of too much quality time, energy, and disappointing relationships at work and at home.

Now, turn that thinking around. None of us can deny that we have tasted success, more-or-less within our lifetimes. We have also witnessed its glory many times over from afar. So what if we instead spent time performing a root-cause analysis of what led to that success, others we admire and our own? This shift in focus, from weaknesses to strengths, has the capability of instilling confidence, inspiration and positivity into your well-being and those around you. Further, the most effective people perform an analysis after each successful venture, assuring they stay consistent and achieve their dreams.

So how can we do this? First, starting with common sense is often a good guide. Aim to make the most of your natural and/or developed talents, adding relevant skills to further these as necessary. Simultaneously, seek knowledge that will allow you to expand the boundaries of your current strengths. Doing this will not only help you to build up expertise but will also allow you to concentrate on matters that bring you joy.

Read on to learn more…