Each morning, before I even put on the coffee, I check my pdf archive. Then I go to work, start up my computer, and immediately check my work pdf archive. Then I keep it on all day, sitting in the background letting me know when I have new pdfs to access.
Of course I need to access to my pdf archive on the go. So I have a smart phone which allows me to check my pdf archive when waiting for an appointment, traveling, standing in line or in any other situation where I have a little down time.
PDF archives have really revolutionized the way we communicate with each other.
I’m not thinking about PDF archives at all. I’m thinking about email. I always get those two things confused.
Are we out of touch?
For the record, I really like PDFs. And so do digital audiences, at least when you offer the pdf in the right way, in a proper context, and for the right reasons. They’re also fun to design.
But why do we rely so much on PDFs for reporting? When reading PDFs is not our audience’s primary goto communication channel, why is the PDF our default?
I guess we should start with how we got here.
The PDF’s heroic story.
Years’ ago there was a thing called print.
If you hired the right designer, you could do a lot with print. You could create something really sleek and professional.
Then web came along.
And web was ugly. Like really ugly, no picture/boring font ugly.
Not nearly as pretty as print.
But soon everyone was using web, because it was easy, and web got slightly prettier (albeit with flashing icons, ugly colors, and overly fancy fonts).
Still, the print thing was cleaner, sleeker, and more “professional.”
So why not take a picture of the print thing, and make it easily downloadable on web? Something that is simultaneously print-ready and accessible on the web. There we have it, the PDF and professional reporting, a perfect match!
So what changed?
There are two big issues that kind of make the PDF a not so great a choice.
One is the continued rise of the mobile web and the overall increase in the ways we can connect. Many people want something that can be read on a desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. This is not an area where PDF excels.
The second is that while internet access has seen massive growth, only some have access to high speeds. And big “download required” image files (a.k.a. PDFs) can act as a barrier, even for short one-pagers.
What to do instead?
Many of the alternatives to a one page pdf are not expensive. They’re just different, requiring a tweak to your approach.
Here are four to consider.
- Say it in an email: If you can say what you need to say in one page, you can do the same thing in one email.
- Create an email autoresponder series: If you want to walk the reader through the report, why not try an automated series of short emails that start when a reader opts in.
- Take advantage of social media: Use a series of small featured image infographics to launch your report into the world.
- Use a blog: Sleek looking blogs can be incredibly easy to create and build. Easier than a sharp looking PDF.
So what do you think?
Are you sticking with the PDF? Is it just a habit, or have you really thought through all the options? Or maybe you have already switched to a new approach?
Write a comment, I would love to hear what you think.