Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) can be a very useful type of multimedia file when used properly, but can hamper usability if not created carefully.

When to use PDFs

PDFs were created as a standard means of sharing documents electronically. Use this format when the equivalent of a static print document is necessary.

Post a PDF when:
  • The document is a formal report needed in its original form, or
  • Providing a blank form that must be returned with a physical signature.

When to not use PDFs

Do not post a PDF document to take the place of creating a page on the CCBC website. PDF files used unnecessarily diminish the user experience by requiring additional navigation, creating longer load times and creating the potential for accessibility issues. In addition, PDF files do not appear as search results in the sites internal search.

Do not post a PDF when:

Event, activity and/or program content should added to a current page, created as a new page or submitted as an event on the CCBC website.

All PDF files posted on the CCBC website must adhere to these Web Content Standards for quality, branding and accessibility. These PDF files must be maintained by the designated department content contributors and owners.

Be mindful of the size of your PDF

Most browsers need to download the full PDF before it can be rendered. With anything larger than 30-40KB, users will have to wait for it to render. Not surprisingly, any lingering load time means increased odds of impatient users hitting their back buttons.

According to the founder of Kissmetrics, 40 percent of users will leave a site after just 3 seconds of waiting.

Keep the Media Library organized

The Media Library is where media files are stored and managed within Sitecore. The Media Library is made up of several folders, organized in a way that mirrors the organization of the CCBC web pages.

PDF placement
It is critical that content contributors keep the library organized in a way that parallels the structure of the CCBC pages. This allows you to keep related items grouped together and organize your media content in a way that will make it easier to retrieve or update later. In addition, always keep PDFs and images in separate subfolders within a given section folder.

When uploading a new PDF into Sitecore, use the following criteria when naming your file:
  • Use underscores or dashes, no spaces. Every space results in a ‘%20’ inserted into the URL.
  • Keep title short and evergreen.
  • Do not include the year or version of the document.
  • Do not include terms like “final, “revised”, “draft”, “new”, etc.
  • Do not include the initials or name of the author.

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Website Privacy Policy v3 Pinkett.PDF Website_Privacy_Policy.PDF
New Campus Map 2020.PDF Campus-Map.PDF

Make PDFs accessible

Section 508 of federal law requires accessibility compliance for documents posted online. Developing a more inclusive document strategy is not only a major component of CCBC’s digital strategy, but a legal requirement to which we are held accountable. PDFs must be in a format that individuals with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with in the same manner as individuals without disabilities.

Standards for PDF accessibility

  1. Apply text alternative to images with the Alt entry in PDF documents
  2. Create bookmarks in PDF documents
  3. Ensure correct tab and reading order in PDF documents
  4. Hide decorative images with Artifact tag in PDF documents
  5. Indicate required form controls in PDF forms
  6. Use table elements for table markup in PDF documents
  7. Perform OCR on a scanned PDF document to provide actual text
  8. Provide definitions for abbreviations via an E entry for a structure element
  9. Provide headings by marking content with heading tags in PDF documents
  10. Provide labels for interactive form controls in PDF documents
  11. Provide links and link text using the Link annotation and the /Link structure element in PDF documents
  12. Provide name, role, value information for form fields in PDF documents
  13. Provide replacement text using the /Alt entry for links in PDF documents
  14. Provide running headers and footers in PDF documents
  15. Provide submit buttons with the submit-form action in PDF forms
  16. Set the default language using the /Lang entry in the document catalog of a PDF document
  17. Specify consistent page numbering for PDF documents
  18. Specify the document title using the Title entry in the document information dictionary of a PDF document
  19. Specify the language for a passage or phrase with the Lang entry in PDF documents
  20. Use Adobe Acrobat Pro’s Table Editor to repair mistagged tables
  21. Use List tags for lists in PDF documents
  22. Indicate when user input falls outside the required format or values in PDF forms
  23. Provide interactive form controls in PDF documents.
After making updates, don’t forget to recheck the PDF for accessibility issues. PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.0 includes a full description and analysis of the PDF accessibility requirements set by the federal government.

Learn more »

The Web Management Team has the right to decline web content submissions including PDFs.