It's 2019: Time to Trade in Your Old PDFs
By Toppan Merrill
1 min read | Industry Insights Insights Home

time to upgrade

Can you recall what technology you were using in 1993?  I know I’ve long since traded in my 90’s flip phone for a shiny new iPhone X max, CDs for music streaming, and the Apple Newton for an iPad. Adobe introduced PDF’s in 1993, more than a quarter of a century ago, so why are we still using PDF’s to share meaningful communications?  

PDF’s are useful for some things, but it’s important to understand their limitations. PDF’s are fixed-layout documents.  Regardless of what device, operating system, or screen size the reader uses, a PDF always renders exactly the same. Something that wasn’t a concern in 1993, but today this is its biggest drawback.  In the mobile-first age, most people don’t want the hassle of looking at something that doesn’t fit their screens without a lot of pinching, squinting and turning.

Furthermore, PDF’s require you to download them before viewing.  This is already a barrier for desktop users and a daunting task for mobile users not to mention adding additional security risks with attachments.  And let’s not forget what happens when you notice a mistake or an update needs to be made shortly after you hit send, you have to update and resend to everyone.  Not all of your members can access your content equally. PDFs need to be tagged and remediated to ensure accessibility for members with disabilities, adding yet another step in the already lengthy go-to-market process.

Aside from all the readability limitations, isn’t modern marketing about data.  PDFs completely lack the ability to track data about your audience and provide valuable insights that can drive content creation and increased audience engagement.

If your goal is to get users to read and engage with your content, you want to hold their attention and keep them engaged throughout the buying journey.  This means it’s time for you to trade your PDF for more engaging web-friendly technologies. 

So what are your options?

Browseable PDFs

Browseable (or flippable) PDFs are essentially digital flipbooks.  Think of them as magazines that have been put onto a computer.  Tools like Issuu and ePageCreator allow you to recreate the physical act of flipping through pages on a screen.  With browseable PDFs, your text is barely legible and having to zoom in and out to read your content is disruptive to your audience’s reading experience.  The inability to play videos, share pages on social media and view your content on a smartphone are also barriers that you can avoid with other modern-day technologies.  This technology also does not easily lend itself to individual personalization for your members especially if you need to secure the content behind a password.  Browseable PDFs can be helpful for those transitioning from print to digital for the first time, but they still lack the interactive capability and most importantly, responsiveness that modern-day readers want in their content. 

Microsites or Responsive Web-Based Documents

With Microsites or Responsive Web-Based Documents, your readers can say goodbye to squinting and pinching in and out of a screen.  Using a platform that supports responsive design will let you create content that is appropriately legible whether your audience is viewing your content on mobile, desktop or tablet devices.  Tools like our Toppan Merrill Microsites, come with a responsive design that is automatically optimized for smaller screens.  By making your content viewable on different devices, your helping improve your audience’s reading experience and preventing them from bouncing.  Utilizing Microsites also gives you the ability to control the way your company’s branding and assets look across different screens.  Because PDFs retain the same layout across different devices, your logo or banner may be less visible and does not ensure maximum exposure and brand compliance.

Taking readability beyond the screen into robust search capabilities is also a huge benefit of Microsites.  Toppan Merrill Microsites offer “Google-like” search capabilities by searching throughout your entire document to locate and highlight keywords within the text, so readers no longer have to skim through pages of information.  This experience provides a significantly improved user experience over a standard PDF.

Personalizing a PDF for a large number of people is not a scalable solution.  But with Toppan Merrill Microsites you can personalize the experience to each individual member. Whether through a single sign-on or login page, you can now make what was once a document for everyone, very personalized and relevant to the individual member enhancing the experience to have more engaged, satisfied members.  Microsites make it easy to customize content based on preferences and relevance. 

In our highly regulated industry, what happens when you make a change to a document after you’ve already sent it such as your terms and conditions or your Provider Directory?  You have to resend it and make sure you don’t miss anyone.  Toppan Merrill Microsites allow you to revise documents without having to redistribute them.  Updating the document within the same URL and the same framework provides your members with the most up to date information – always, saving you a lot of time and money.

Microsites offer a dashboard that provides metrics like the number of clicks on a button, the number of video views, what keywords visitors are using in their onsite searches, and unique page sessions.  This data allows you to gain insights into audience behaviors, ultimately helping you better tailor your content and improve engagement.

Let’s take the Evidence of Coverage (EOC) as an example.  The EOC is a 200+ page document that describes in detail the health care benefits covered by your health plan.  Two years ago plans had to print and distribute this book to their Medicare Advantage members.  Last year CMS ruled that plans no longer had to send out a print version, but needed to have it easily accessible by their members.  Many plans took the document and created a PDF version – saving themselves lots of money.  But put yourself in the shoes of your Medicare Advantage member – you are looking for coverage information for hospitalization or diabetes.  Where do you start? Combing through pages and pages of information in print or PDF format to find the right information about hospitalization could take hours and ultimately prompt a call to customer service.  Now take that same document and turn it into a Microsite.  It gives the user “google-like” search capabilities within the document, you can easily categorize and split the document into chapters and sections, and you can add explainer videos and quick links to call customer service if they are still having issues finding what they need.  Plus, the analytics you receive in your dashboard, such as most frequently searched terms, gives the marketing departments more insight about how to improve member satisfaction by adding content relevant to those keywords to the Microsite.  Not only are your members more satisfied and engaged, but it also gives your sales team and brokers an interactive tool they can use as they are meeting with current and potential members. 

As audience behavior evolves and the modern-day reader matures, finding ways to keep up with changing readership habits is crucial.  Technology has come a long way since 1993, and we need to transform our communications just as we’ve changed the way we read them. Moving beyond the PDF with Microsites make it possible for you to quickly produce immersive content that is measurable, engaging and caters to your audience, exceeding your member expectations and beating out your competition.


Subscribe to our Community!





Toppan Merrill

Toppan Merrill, a leader in financial printing and communication solutions, is part of the Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., the world's leading printing group, headquartered in Tokyo with approximately US$14 billion in annual sales. Toppan Merrill has been a pioneer and trusted partner to the financial, legal and corporate communities for five decades, providing secure, innovative solutions to complex content and communications requirements. Through proactive partnerships, unparalleled expertise, continuous innovation and unmatched service, Toppan Merrill delivers a hassle-free experience for mission-critical content for capital markets transactions, financial reporting and regulatory disclosure filings, and marketing and communications solutions for regulated and non-regulated industries. With global expertise in major capital markets, Toppan Merrill delivers unmatched service around the world.

Show more posts from author

Most Popular Articles

Most Popular Articles

Most Popular Articles

Most Popular Articles