Putting Documents on your Website

There are many ways to display documents on a website. If you want to allow users to view and download documents, but don't want them edited or modified, the most obvious choice is Adode Acrobat's PDF format. Almost everyone has the reader and it integrates right into the user's webbrowser, making viewing and downloading very easy.

An example where PDF format seems to be perfect is the homeowner's association websites we have done. There are minutes, accounting records, documents of incorporation, etc. All of these are relatively small, legal documents which we want to display, let people download, but not allow people to edit or modify. PDF produces documents which open up almost instantly, download quickly, and everyone is able to read. Artemina HOA's website is an excellent example of a website making extensive use of PDF documents.

Sometimes documents may be very large and slow to view or download, even with a high-speed Internet connection. When that it the case, we need to look at alternatives to simply bundling up these documents as huge, slow PDF files. The printed catalog for Aristone Designs is an example of a very large PDF file. When we first converted the catalog to a PDF file, it was 700MB. It would have been very slow to load for viewing and even slower to download. We employed 2 different strategies to make the size and speed more reasonable, though we still used PDF files for the solution:
1) First, we saved the catalog at screen resolution (72 dpi) instead of printing resolution (300 dpi). This reduced the size to 60MB - still a huge file, but less than 1/10th the size of what we started with.
2) The second thing we did was publish the catalog's individual sections - if you are only interested in architechural columns, you can just download that individual section of the catalog. The individual sections are a more manageable size - generally under 10MB.

Another example where the resulting PDF files were too large is freelance writer Kim Hill's website. Kim has a number of scanned magazine articles she wanted to display in her portfolio. These documents, even when scanned at low resolution, produced very large PDF files, certainly too large to view from a dial-up connection. For Kim's site, we chose to forego the use of PDF files altogether. Since the articles were all scanned images anyway, we decided to display them on the website as jpeg images - one image/page with navigation links to move back and forth within each article. While this took some extra time to set up, it turned out to produce much faster pageloads than we could have been achieved using PDF files.

Last Updated November 18, 2013