Content Decision: Webpage or Document

When creating digital content, consider the many benefits of creating content on a webpage (HTML and CSS) versus linking to a document (e.g., Word, PDF, PowerPoint). A web-first culture promotes inclusivity and usability. Watch this Inaccessible PDF example read with screen reader (YouTube video) (by PopeTech) to learn more about the barriers PDFs can create for screen reader users.

Benefits of web content

  • Easier to achieve accessibility: Content posted on the University’s approved content management systems will meet accessibility standards with less effort from the content editor. On the other hand, creating/updating an accessible document requires training and effort, or potential remediation. Creating a fully accessible PDF also requires the author to use Adobe Acrobat Pro (not Reader) or PDF accessibility software.
  • Responsive: With the proliferation of mobile devices, users expect responsive design. With a responsive website, your content will be ready to display and share in a multitude of screen sizes with a minimum amount of scrolling and zooming.
  • Easier to update: Trying to update a PDF means needing access to the source document, which could be difficult to locate.
  • Consistent navigation and branding: Content is part of your website rather than a separate file, which may get out of sync with current branding standards.
  • Better search engine optimization (SEO) and analytics: Because of its structure, web content offers better search engine results. Analytics are also better able to track and provide insight into content interactions on webpages than in documents.


  • Linked Documents: If there is content that must be formatted a certain way for the print version or if there is a need to capture point-in-time archival information, an accessible document may be preferable. A strong consideration should be given to providing both HTML and separate document (e.g., PDF) content in these instances for all the reasons already noted.
  • URLs of hyperlinks:
    • To meet accessibility guidelines, link text should be meaningful (e.g., Visit the CDA website, instead of using the URL as link text or providing a generic “Click here”).
    • When linking to a document, include the document type (PDF, Word, PowerPoint, etc.) in the link text so the user knows what to expect.
    • If the print version of a webpage doesn’t display the URLs of hyperlinks, modify the print style sheet of your website. Consult a web developer or contact the CDA for more information.