Creating User Friendly PDF Documents

Over the years, users have found PDF software increasingly easier to use. The workflow of creating a document that’s readable on any computing platform or mobile device is relatively simple if you’re using the right application. The user experience, however? That’s another story. Which is why it pays to take the time to properly plan the layout and user experience of the document you’re working on.

Luckily, enterprise grade PDF software applications provide you with all of the features and tools you’ll need to create user friendly documents; you just need to familiarize yourself with some of the best practices when it comes to PDF user experience.


Most governments have specific laws that requires electronic and information technology developed by or purchased by their Federal Agencies be accessible by people with disabilities. This has spread to many businesses and private organizations as well, so that employees who may have disabilities will also benefit from accessibility standards.

Accessibility is often is the first step in creating a user-friendly document. This involves adding a formal structure to documents, including alternative text for images, using descriptive text for tables, tagging documents appropriately and many other requirements that are similar to the ones found on this checklist. Once you create the document, you can then run a complete accessibility check of the file through your PDF software to ensure that the document is compliant along with providing a report for others to view.

Linking and navigation

One of the benefits of a PDF document is the ability to turn static content into an interactive document. You may utilize bookmarks or a table of contents for longer documents. Readers need only click on the bookmarked tab or the specific item in the table of contents to find the content they’re looking for.

Documents also have the ability to contain hyperlinks to content on the Internet; readers looking for sources or additional information need only click on the links you provide and they can bring up the appropriate page in their browser.

Page layout

Using PDF software, you can select from a number of layout choices including orientation, paper and page size, and units of measurement. You also have access to built-in tools that allow you to arrange objects on the page, move and resize paragraphs, edit images and other objects or even modify the document by changing the background and other elements.

Embed necessary elements

The most important user experience feature comes from the ability for PDF software to embed elements such as fonts and images directly into the document file. This ensures that every reader, regardless of which fonts they have installed on their system, will be able to experience the document the way you intended.

Much like web sites, PDF documents should also employ some of the best practices that give users the best possible experience. Not all word processing tools, or even PDF software solutions, provide the capability to accomplish this. Make sure that you’re using a PDF editor such as PhantomPDF that provides users with the features and tools needed to produce high quality, user-friendly documents.

13 thoughts on “Creating User Friendly PDF Documents

  1. Philip K. Oltman

    Using Foxit Reader, I often add text annotations to PDFs and send them on to someone. Occasionally, the recipient reports that NO ANNOTATIONS appeared in the PDF I sent them. Whatever software they were using to read my annotated PDF did not read my annotations. This even though I carefully saved the annotations and document together. Can you suggest a way to make certain that any text I add will appear in all PDFs I send, regardless of the software the recipient uses to read them? I know that I can “print” my annotated PDF to a new PDF file and send the resulting “printed” PDF file, but that is an extra step I’d like to avoid.

    1. FOXITBLOG Post author

      A good idea would be to “flatten” the annotations (available in PhantomPDF only), or print to PDF as you said. Aside from that, it would likely be that the recipient is using an old or buggy PDF reader that does not support annotations.

  2. Karl W.

    Hello, habe Foxit geladen in Deutsch aber trotzdem ist es in ENGLISCH erschienen.
    Ist DEUTSCH nicht Moeglich? Ich arbeite seit langem mit diesem Reader, bin trotz der Warnungen sehr zufrieden nur die Sprache ist jetzt noch das Problem. Meine erste Version war in Deutsch!!!

    1. FOXITBLOG Post author

      Well, you can do something about that. Just go to “Control Panel” and and “Uninstall a program” to get rid of that bloatware! ;^)

  3. John Martin

    By default, the PDF security feature is turned off. But security is important in this day of Internet piracy and identity theft. You can set a PDF so users can’t print, copy images or text, or comment directly on the file. By limiting their ability to copy, you can protect against readers who would use or alter your images in ways you don’t approve of.

  4. Barry Harland

    I am the older generation (83 ) but still like to be up-to-date on my PC I have tried a few PDFs and find yours a good one to stay with. As far as technical report is concerned you can’t have one. I am a dunce at tech stuff


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