Why do we still use PDF files on the web?

A good article on PDF usage: https://speckyboy.com/pdf-files-on-the-web/. I'm definitely guilty of using PDFs as a lazy way to update content - upload the PDF and add a link and you're done! Sometimes the PDF itself is very nicely laid out, why waste the effort of the content owner? Of course using PDFs on the web is generally a net negative. They are difficult to update and offer a poor user experience, especially for mobile users.

At the Luddy School in Indianapolis, we recently went through a “PDF diet”. We had about 600 PDFs on our website. About 550 of those were syllabi and the remaining 50 were forms, policies, plans of study, and other miscellaneous documents. Why so many PDFs? In addition to the usual collection of documents most schools have, Luddy had a tradition of giving our students more information on a course than the generic course description. Uploading a PDF of the most recent syllabus was an easy way to do that.

To correct this we worked with program directors and student services to publish the information students need when planning their schedule on the actual course page, rather than publishing the entire syllabus. We found students only need part of the information contained in the syllabus when deciding on a course to enroll in, so removing the syllabi and only publishing the useful information made our course pages much more student-friendly.

For the rest of the content, we used our form builder tools to create online forms and worked with stakeholders to convert the remaining documents to web pages, with a few exceptions.

At last count we have 9 PDF files on our website and a much better experience for our students.