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.

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.