An Edifying Blast from the Past

An 8-Year-Old Article For Your Amusement and Amazement

October, 2001: A more innocent time. Our country had just been rocked by the 9/11 attacks, yet we still had a sense of naive optimism, hope and positivity. The dot-com bubble had not yet fully burst, new net technologies were just being introduced and markets were still flying high. The A/V industry was “on the grow” and many of today’s big names were just little sprogs. Gary Kayye, noted consultant, speaker and mind behind the rAVe family of industry newsletters was, at the time, writing a little email precursor to rAVe called KNews.

Back then, your intrepid blogger AVDawn was a mere sprogling herself, without even a CTS to her name yet. Still, then as now, AVDawn had opinions and AVDawn had no qualms about sharing them. Thus it came to pass that AVDawn first appeared in an industry publication, KNews. I recently came across this article in my archives and decided to share it with you, faithful readers. I know that, back then, I was delighted to be published and even more so because Gary dubbed me an “expert” on the topic at hand. Reviewing it 8 years later, I’m still tickled by the subhead of the article but even more thrilled with just how on-point my opinion was. I make no claims to be a master prognosticator or even an amateur, but I can now rightfully claim to be 1-0 in the predictions department. Not too shabby, eh? So, without further ado:



To PDF or Not to PDF, Readers Respond
One expert’s point of view as to why PDFs are needed on your website
KNews, October 17, 2001


We had a lot of feedback regarding an article in last week’s issue of KNews, “Six Tips for Improving Your Websites.” by Denise Harrison. We also had some folks posting about it on the User Forum.

Some agreed; some didn’t. Here is one letter which did a great job of stating the case for keeping PDFs on Websites.

Dear Kayye News/Presentation Master,

We receive your weekly newsletter at our office and I always enjoy reading it. You truly keep on top of the industry’s news and offer very insightful and valuable tips to integrators, large and small. Gary Kayye and company do an excellent job with their weekly columns.

I am writing today, however, regarding Denise Harrison’s “Six Tips for Improving your Websites” as published 10/11/01. As a web designer since 1995 and an A/V professional since 1997, I agree with all of her points, save one.

In tip #4, she writes, “Make your product brochures Webpages, not pdf files. I know it’s easier and somewhat high tech to put your brochures up on the Web as pdf files either for downloading or for opening in Adobe Acrobat. But there are two problems with this. First, if your dealer is at a customer site discussing different product options, he or she might want to pull up the brochure on the Web. What if the customer hasn’t downloaded Acrobat? It’s definitely a possibility. You don’t want your dealer having to take the customer time installing a new computer program on their system which they may not have even wanted. Second, pdf turns product photos to mush. If you want to show off how good your product looks, or If you want the reader to see details, pdf is a bad choice. Have someone take the time to format Web pages of your brochures that match the design instead of using pdf.”

The use of PDF files on manufacturer web sites is more than just an “easy, high-tech” option. It is a downright necessity in our industry, especially for smaller integrators. Our industry changes specs and products so quickly, it is often impossible to have an entire file of up-to-date glossies to include with proposals, or use as submittals, or what have you. While PDF files do not provide the best possible image [as in a glossy brochure], they do provide the best, quickest and easiest way of accessing product info for our clients – whether we email it, print it for hardcopy or burn to CD with a copy of the [free] Acrobat Reader program. Many times, I’ve jumped online to snag a PDF for a new product or a changed spec in just a few minutes. And at least one of our major contracts told us that the CD-with-PDFs format of our proposal tipped the scales between our company and another who simply emailed a proposal without specs [in an e-bid situation]. As a result, I have been urging all of the manufacturers we deal with to provide an inclusive section of downloadable PDFs.

As for traveling sales staff, it is true that you cannot guarantee a client will have Acrobat Reader downloaded. However, our guys rarely travel without a laptop and few are the clients who do not allow a quick plug-in to present a demo and pull up PDFs. Of course, the greatest benefit of the PDF in our experience is that it can be downloaded and burned to CD or saved to hard drive so that our salesmen don’t NEED to visit the web in order to share specs with a potential client. They just access our customized library of PDFs for whichever manufacturer and product they need and pull it up on the laptop’s copy of Acrobat! It’s that simple.

As a web designer who is schooled in the “church of usability” as CNET describes it, I really do think that all of your information should be available as an html page, readable from any computer on any platform. However, I think that this should be IN ADDITION to PDF files rather than IN LIEU of them. It takes little extra effort to include both, but your integrators will thank you!

Keep up the good work, Presentation Master!

Dawn Bickerstaff Meade
Director of A/V Sales & Marketing
Advanced Video Systems, Inc.
Owings Mills, MD

Note from editor: OK on the PDFs! How about both PDFs and HTML?

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