Web Content Maintenance: Adobe PDF Endless Pit of Destruction and Pain (aka APEPDP)

Are you a newbie developer in the world of web content maintenance? If you are then be aware of the Adobe PDF Endless Pit of Destruction and Pain (aka APEPDP) so you can avoid the horrors it may bring.

What is APEPDP? In a nutshell it is the delivery of web content to the masses in the form of a PDF document that may subsequently awaken a nightmare of maintenance and usability issues for as far as the eye can see.  This is an example of how the horror may unfold:

  1. A client creates a Microsoft Word document.
  2. The client converts the document into a PDF document.
  3. The client gives the PDF to the web developer or webmaster to add to a web page.
  4. Another client, sometime later, sends a request to the web developer or webmaster to make changes to the PDF document mentioned above.
  5. The web developer or webmaster tries to locate the original Word document from the prior client only to find that no one has the original Word document.
  6. The web developer or webmaster recreates the PDF in Word.
  7. The web developer or webmaster makes the new changes in Word.
  8. The web developer or webmaster converts the Word document to PDF.
  9. The web developer or webmaster replaces the existing PDF on the web site with this new PDF.
  10. Users visiting the site now have to install the Adobe Reader if they do not already have it, wait while the PDF loads (the user may not even get this far if the device they are using is not capable of reading PDF documents) and if the PDF does load the user now is inside an environment unlike anything in the web site they were just on, this separate PDF environment has rudimentary navigational options, no back button, limited search capabilities, no visible url to give the user an idea of where he or she is and often hard to find print options.

A few tips for avoiding APEPDP

  • If you must use PDFs as web content, then set up an official document repository for your users so they may create documents and always have valid latest versions of said document originals for any future potential modifications.
  • If you want your web content to be easily and quickly readable on all devices in all browsers by all screen readers, then publish your web content as html – no exceptions. A way to implement a solution like this, in its simplest form, is as follows:

    –  A client creates a Microsoft Word document and checks the Word document into an official document repository for safe keeping for any future potential modifications.
    –  The client gives the Microsoft Word document to the web developer or webmaster to add to a web page.
    –  The web developer or webmaster saves the Microsoft Word document as html.
    –  The web developer or webmaster publishes the html to the web site.

  • Train users to use web content management tools so they can create content themselves. Based on my experience with web content management tools in large and small organizations, I do not recommend them at this time unless you have enough IT staff to train and retrain users on these systems since many users will use them so infrequently that they will forget how to use them.
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