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Notes From An Event Apart Austin: Karen McGrane

I’m home and (sort of) recovered from Automattic‘s Grand Meetup (#a8cgm), so back to my notes from An Event Apart Austin

Karen McGrane presented “Content in a Zombie Apocalypse” and dropped some knowledge on us about WYSIWYG and the ridiculousness of web-paper (PDFs).


“I’m kind of like the President of the WYSIWYG Haters Club.” Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

This was an interesting story! — WYSIWYG came from XEROX so that they could sell laser printers. Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

On Web-Paper aka PDFs:

“The blobiest blob that we have ever blobbed onto the web… the PDF!” Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

Please, allow me to make one thing clear before I go on: Nobody is reading your PDF. The World Bank recently did a study in which they looked from 2008 to 2012 at all of the PDFs that they have put online and what they found was 33 percent of them, a third of them, never downloaded at all. What’s worse: 40 percent of them were downloaded fewer than 100 times.

Nobody is reading your PDF, because:
  • not digital
  • not responsive
  • not accessible
So why do people use PDFs on websites so much?

They allow someone to use a familiar tool (like Microsoft Word) to produce a complex document and put it on the web. It’s a simpler process than getting the document actually on a site, but definitely means fewer readers (like, sometimes none).

She says, “First add content repository, then layer author experience on top of that. Next pattern library, then design styles.” Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

More Information:

Note: The Twitter bird icons link to the corresponding tweet for each piece. Thanks to @mor10, @RainbowliciousD, @NickMartinUI, @sbeatty for live-tweeting the talk along with me on #aeaaus. 🙂

Notes on some sessions linked on this page (and more added as I post them).