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Web standards for PDFs and other file types

This web standard is mandatory for all PDFs and other file types published on the public website.

  1. When to provide PDFs
  2. Standards for PDFs and other attachments
  3. Guidance on filenames and asset titles
  4. Reason for this web standard

1. When to provide PDFs

PDFs should not be used as an alternative to creating web pages. Where possible, our information must always be available as web pages as this is the most accessible format. Reasons for providing PDF versions:

  • documents already available in a paper format
  • long documents such as service delivery plans and strategy documents
  • publicity material such as leaflets or posters
  • documents that can't be suitably converted to web pages (for example, graphs, complex maps or plans)
  • accessible version of documents that have to be provided in other file types such as Word, .csv, Excel etc.

2. Standards for PDFs

  1. Do not add documents owned by other organisations (to the Media Library) as they may be copyright protected. Create an external link to the website where they are located and the customer will always have the latest version.
  2. Follow House Style and use the appropriate branding - Your PDF must follow our house style (available on SCC Info). If there are reasons why your document cannot follow the house style, you must speak to Web and Digital Services before adding it to the website. Your document should be branded either by using one of the templates on SCC Info (see Branded templates) or by including the logo on the front page with Surrey County Council in the heading.
  3. Maximum file size 1Mb - Your PDF should be a maximum of 1Mb in size. This is so that they can be downloaded even on slow Internet connections and on mobile phones. If your PDF is larger than 1Mb, please try reducing the size using the PDF documents guidance on SCC Info or contact Web and Digital Services to discuss other possible solutions.
  4. Do not create PDFs of less than 5 pages - 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 (eg a detailed map, a publicity poster that is to be printed, forms etc). You can also provide a PDF if you think a specifically designed printable version of the web page is required eg for leaflets, checklists etc. Please note that our web pages are printer friendly.
  5. Tag your PDFs - Tagging the PDF makes it easier to navigate and helps to make it accessible to people using screen readers. It can also help PDFs display better on mobile phones and similar devices.
    To tag a PDF in Word, when you use Save as to create the PDF, before you click on Publish to create the PDF, click on the Options button and make sure that the Document structure tags for accessibility box is ticked.
    To tag a PDF in Acrobat, open your PDF using Acrobat. Choose View > Tools > Accessibility > Add Tags To Document.
    If you need any further help with tags, contact Web and Digital Services.
  6. Fill in Metadata correctly. For an explanation and examples, see How to create accessible PDF documents.
  7. Use clear Filenames and asset titles. See guidance in point 3 below.
  8. Create accessible tables - Keep tables simple in PDFs. Use column headings and make sure that the contents of the table make sense when they are read from left to right for screen readers.
  9. Link to attachments correctly - It is advisable to link attachments at the bottom of a page in the 'Files available to download' section unless you have a large number of attachments already linked into the body text of your web page. Link text should include the document title and file type in brackets eg Self directed support leaflet (PDF)
  10. Do not use scans in PDF documents as these can be over the 1Mb limit and difficult to resize, plus they can't be read by screen readers.
  11. If your PDF is a form - talk to the Web and Digital Services about turning it into an e-Suite form that people can fill in and submit online.
  12. Add text descriptions of data shown in charts and graphs - to ensure screen reading software can access the data in charts and graphs in a PDF, you must also include the data as text.

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3. Guidance on filenames and asset titles

A meaningful filename, asset title and description makes your attachment much easier to find using search engines and helps visitors to the website decide if it contains the information they are looking for and whether to open it or not. This is also important for accessibility reasons as attachment titles and descriptions are used by screen readers.

  • Attachment filename – should be lower case with no special characters (except hyphens/underscore to replace spaces). Don't use full stops in your title and include the date in this format, particularly for documents that are regularly updated: service-delivery-plan-13-04-30.pdf - please the (dd-mm-yy) date format as this is the default in Matrix and helps us be consistent.
  • Asset title - make sure that the title is grammatically correct and meaningful; ideally it should be the full title of the document. Do not use acronyms or reference numbers unless they are explained eg Annual Review of Statement of Special Educational Needs form – AR011– not SEN AR011. Do not use block capitals and never use the filename as the asset title.
  • Asset Description - if you have had to split a long document into sections in a number of separate files, each one should include the document title, date of publication, the part/chapter number and a summary of the contents of that particular part/chapter. The filename should also reflect the part or chapter number if possible to help identify it from the other files that make up the whole document.
  • Text references - if you refer to the attachment in the text of your pages, you should be consistent and use the full title, the year or date of publication. For example: Full details are available in the Safer Cycling in Surrey report (2009).


File name: Surrey_geology_report_2014_part3.pdf
Asset title: Surrey Geology Report 2014 part 3
Description: Part 3 of 9. This section of the report covers the chalk downlands in Tandridge and Mole Valley.

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4. Reason for this web standard

PDF web standards are mandatory for technical, usability and accessibility reasons.

  • Following the PDF standards will make your PDF accessible and your information will be viewable by a wider audience.
  • Illegal characters in a filename can prevent some users from being able to open the attachment. This is because some punctuation or symbols have a technical function.