cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Surveyor II

Usability: "Avoid PDF for On-Screen Reading"

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen at the Nielsen Norman Group published an article on the usability of PDFs on the web: Avoid PDF for On-Screen Reading.

Avoid PDF for On-Screen Reading

Summary: Forcing users to browse PDF files causes frustration and slow task completion, compared to standard webpages. Use PDF only for documents that users will print. In those cases, following 10 basic guidelines will minimize usability problems.
When designing courses in Canvas we use PDFs for a lot of purposes, such as making journal articles available to students as readings or creating printable syllabi. The syllabi make sense as PDFs because they're intended for offline use or printing. (Sure would be great if Canvas automatically converted content from the Syllabus page into a PDF.)
Nielsen has me thinking about other cases, such as PDFs of journal articles, slide presentations, or other course content, which we normally post as a file download on a page with the link set to preview. To what extent does Nielsen's recommendations about the usability of PDFs apply to these previews? His cases are corporate intranets and websites, but our courses are not all that dissimilar.
One usability example: I know PDFs are problematic when I try to view them on mobile devices because the aspect ratio of a letter-size page is not congruent with the aspect ratio of my mobile screen, and also because the PDF essentially creates a fixed font size that makes reading on handheld devices difficult.
I should mention that we never use the option to add a file directly to a module because it provides no opportunity to provide directions or context.

So what do other Canvas users think about the usability of PDFs in courses?

Tags (2)
0 Kudos
0 Replies