Web standard - PDFs
PDFs must be prepared according to our PDF standards.
Reason for this web standard
Accessibility, usability and technical
PDFs should not be used as an easy alternative to creating web pages. Where possible, our information must always be available as web pages as this is the most accessible format. However, there can be circumstances when providing information as a PDF would be appropriate. For example:
- downloadable versions of leaflets or reports that are already available in a paper format, this includes long documents such as service delivery plans and strategy documents;
- downloadable and printable versions of documents such as leaflets or posters;
- documents that can't be suitably converted to web pages (for example, complex maps or plans)
The standards below apply to PDFs on our website. If you are creating a PDF from an existing Word document, you may need to make some changes to the original document in order to meet the standards before converting it to PDF. The PDF linked at the bottom of this page gives more guidance on setting up Word to produce documents suitable for PDF.
Contact the Digital Delivery Team if you are not sure if PDF is the appropriate format for your document or if you need help with any of the standards.
Standards for PDFs
- The PDF should follow our house style. If there are reasons why a document cannot follow the house style, you must inform the Digital Delivery Team before adding it to the website.
- PDFs should be a maximum of 1Mb in size. This is so that they can be downloaded even on slow Internet connections. Bear in mind that 1Mb is the maximum size – usually, we aim for our PDFs to be smaller than this. Very occasionally, there are documents that cannot be converted into PDFs of less than 1Mb in size. If this applies to your document, contact the Digital Delivery Team to discuss possible solutions.
- If you have a PDF that is less than five pages long, you should present the information as a web page unless it is not suitable (e.g. a detailed map, a publicity poster that is to be printed, forms etc). You can also provide a PDF if you think a download is required in addition to the web page.
- PDF filenames must not include punctuation or symbols other than - or _ - if there is a date in the filename, do not use stops or / to separate the numbers e.g.
- wrong - Adult-social-care-strategy-21.04.2013 or Adult-social-care-strategy-21/04/2013
- correct - Adult-social-care-strategy-21-04-2013 or Adult-social-care-strategy-21-April-2013
- All PDFs should be tagged. Tagging the PDF makes it easier to navigate and helps to make it accessible to people using screen reading software. It can also help PDFs display better on mobile phones and similar devices. To tag a PDF, you need the full version of Adobe Acrobat (version 5 or above). Open your PDF using Acrobat. Choose Advanced > Accessibility > Add Tags To Document. If you don't have the full version of Adobe Acrobat (you may only have Acrobat Reader), contact the Digital Delivery Team to have tags added to your PDF.
- Tables in PDFs must be accessible. Keep tables simple. Don't use tables just for layout (for example, creating multiple columns of text like in a newspaper) and avoid nested tables (tables that are inside other tables). Each column in a table should have a heading describing its contents. Make sure that the contents of the table make sense when they are read from left to right. See our standards for tables for more detailed guidance and examples.
- You must include the data from charts and graphs. If your PDF includes images such as charts and graphs that represent data, then you must also include the data either as text or in a table. This allows people using screen reading software to access the data. For example, the information displayed in this pie-chart must be included either next to or under the pie chart in text or table form.
8. When adding your PDF to Squiz Matrix, the file name, title and description must follow the standard for attachment names and descriptions. You must also include appropriate document summary information (metadata).
9. When attaching your PDF to a page in Squiz Matrix, you must follow the standard for creating links to attachments.
10. If you are creating a PDF from a Word document, format the document using Word's built-in styles (normal, heading 1, heading 2 etc). This will make it easier to convert it into an accessible PDF in Word or Adobe Acrobat (see point 4 above). The PDF linked at the bottom of this page gives more guidance on setting up Word to produce documents suitable for PDF.
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11. You shouldn't create PDFs by scanning a document. Normally, when you scan a document the result is a picture of that document rather than the actual words and sentences that make up that document. PDFs created from scanned images can be difficult to use (they aren't easy to resize and they can't be read by screen reading software). If your scanner includes text recognition software (also referred to as optical character recognition or OCR software) then it can convert the scanned image into words and sentences. You can use this as the basis for a PDF however, you must proof read it thoroughly as OCR software is not 100% accurate when it converts images to words.
12. If your PDF is a form, talk to the Digital Delivery Team about turning it into an eSuite form that people can fill in and submit online.
Why we have this web standard
Accessibility, usability and technical - this web standard is mandatory for accessibility, usability and technical reasons.
Where we make information available as a PDF, we are obliged to make sure that it can be accessed by as many people as possible. Following the guidelines above should achieve this.
Related web standard:
Files available to download