Novartis : Unresponsive PDFs

A responsive website consigns useful information to unwieldy PDFs. 

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The feature

Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceuticals giant, has a ‘Positions’ page in the ‘About Us’ section of its corporate website, where the company states ‘our position on key issues affecting our business and of specific interest to our stakeholders’.

The page, like the rest of the main site, is responsive (meaning it adjusts automatically to fit any screen size), and it is easy to read in desktop mode and on a smartphone. However, all of the ‘position’ documents – on issues such as access to medicine, animal research, etc – are in PDF format, which are readable on a desktop but hard to read and fiddly on a smartphone.

The takeaway

Journalists and other visitors will be pleased that they can read the Novartis website while on the move, but leaving informative position papers in PDF dilutes the benefits of the responsive design. Reading a PDF on a mobile device remains a frustrating experience and likely means many will give up and simply access them on a desktop or print them out.

Novartis illustrates a problem we have seen on several responsive websites (and there are more examples on the Novartis site). A company takes the trouble to redesign the website for mobile access but when ‘deeper’ content is required, resorts to linking to conventional PDFs – possibly because it is easier and less expensive to migrate existing PDFs, or the new template is too restrictive to allow new pages. However, if ‘long-form’ content is important enough to be on the website, there should be a way to offer an html option, even if in the form of a summary or bullet points, along with the link to the PDF.
First published 30 September, 2015
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