Most law firms have a history of using Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) to distribute their brochures, papers and longer written pieces. That practice matches what web usability experts have long advised: “PDF is great for distributing documents that need to be printed,” but not much more than that. The well-traveled rule is that if a document contains more than five pages of text (hint: that excludes lawyer profiles), then PDF format is worth considering.
Now, let’s throw a wrench into this. As we approach the end of 2011, many firms and their their clients are moving toward paperless offices. Clients are consuming law firm publications on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and large multiple-monitor desktop environments. So how likely is it that we consume a PDF on printed paper? Not very.
We can now presume that PDFs will be read almost exclusively on electronic devices — and that changes a lot of our previous assumptions. The “need to be printed” rule is close to becoming as obsolete as the printouts upon which PDFs were once routinely produced. In light of this digital evolution, we need to revisit the usage of PDF and how firms integrate this file format within their online properties.
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