Freelance Project Manager at Chris Baker FPM
10 March 2004 11:24am
How familiar is this: You download a PDF file, and wait ages to see the high-resolution picture on the cover. Having at last got the whole file, you find you have a big document with no navigation supplied so that you either have to read it as if it were a paper book trapped behind the computer screen, or print it out.
I would be very grateful if anyone could point me towards good resources on creating PDF files that are likely to be downloaded and consumed electronically. Thesemight be fully-fledged "eBooks" but I think similar usability issues will apply to any big PDF. So far I''ve found it difficult to find good up-to-date books, tutorials, whitepapers etc. But I still hope improve on the very unusable scenario above.
Issues I need to grapple with include:
Byteserving - allowing my user to download the first page and read that while the rest downloads.
Navigation - booksmarks, contents, internal links, links out of the PDF to other things, or links from hte outside world to a particular place in the PDF.
Security - should I disable printing, copying, mdifying etc.? (Pros and cons to be weighed up here, surely)
Fonts - how to ensure my nicely typeset text doesn't turn nasty.
eCommerce - what issues, if any , about selling the titles do I need to think through when making them?
Bet there are far more issues than this - it's just that I don't know about the others yet!
I'm pretty sure I ask too many questions to be answered right here in this forum - pointers to resources would be very much appreciated, or perhaps there is a gap for an e-consultancy white paper?
Many thanks to anyone able to help!
Fndr at Majestic12.co.uk
10 March 2004 12:43pm
Mass electronic document publishing (please feel free to suggest a better term) is still an emerging field that will take time to reach maturity with publishers using established well developed standards and users having a set of expectations. Meeting or exceeding these expectations would qualify as best practice. Since its emerging field (in my view at least) there is no such well defined set of expectations and thus everything I will say below is purely my opinion.
> Security - should I disable printing, copying, mdifying etc.?
> (Pros and cons to be weighed up here, surely)
I'd say definitely not to disable printing and copying to clipboard - all these "security" techniques are just annoying barriers to users of your document, some of whom may have paid for it and therefore fully expect to be able to quote from it easily or print it to read elsewhere. I am sometimes amazed how free documents will have these essential "document" feature disabled, often without any good reason at all.
A lot of people will certainly disagree but it should be appreciated that anyone can take screenshot from your document and then apply OCR (Optical Character Recognition)to it , not even speaking of well known tools that break very weak PDF encryption.
> Byteserving - allowing my user to download the first page and
> read that while the rest downloads.
This might be useful as currently all or almost all PDFs have to be fully downloaded before they can be viewed, thus anything that can improve in this area could be of big benefit - I'd be careful to ensure backwards compatibility though.
> Fonts - how to ensure my nicely typeset text doesn't turn nasty.
I'd stick to most standard fonts used by everyone.
> Navigation - booksmarks, contents, internal links, links out of
> the PDF to other things, or links from hte outside world to a
> particular place in the PDF.
I'd suggest to ensure that you use unique linking that is trackable - this could provide invaluable information on how your document is actually used.
Usability consultant at Effortmark Ltd
17 March 2004 15:24pm
There are also some accessibility issues in PDFs, unless you take care to make sure they are accessible from the start.
A good resource on PDF: www.planetpdf.com
for example, there's an article about accessibility at:
(Warning: when I was double-checking it just now, the site was performing a little oddly, giving me some intermittent 404 errors).
From the point of view of usability, think about what your audience wants to get from the document and how they are likely to use it. Do they simply want to pick out a few key facts? If so, put them right out front. Is it a long guidebook or consultation document, where they are likely to print it before reading? If so, maybe that attractive image on the front cover is worth the space.
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