5 Reasons to Ditch Your PDF Catalog… Sorta

People often ask how using Dirxion to publish a digital catalog is different from publishing a PDF. The answer is: Dirxion is beyond a PDF. 

PDFs are useful for some things, but it’s important to understand their limitations. 

Introduced in 1993, Adobe and the PDF (Portable Document Format) revolutionized the way we view and share documents. Today, the PDF is still a widely popular format for distributing read-only documents in a way that preserves the overall layout of the page. 

But is the PDF the best format to use for publishing your catalog online?

PDF is about displaying content. HTML5 is about interacting with content. Imagine window shopping versus stepping inside and holding a product. 

In this post, we evaluate the differences between a PDF catalog and a Dirxion catalog to help you determine if it’s time to upgrade your catalog.

What PDFs do well

PDFs continue to serve as a trusted, easy-to-create file type. Anything from spreadsheets to photo albums to scanned receipts can be saved in PDF format.

Conformity and Reliability: A PDF stores every detail and piece of formatting within the file itself, including spacing, pictures and fonts. This removes one of the largest obstacles to sharing documents, as most other types of files require the document recipients to already have the proper fonts installed and may lose formatting when they are opened in a different program. PDFs appear the same on any device that reads them, including Windows, Mac OS and mobile devices.

Lock-Down: Adobe Reader, the free program created by Adobe to open PDF documents, cannot edit the file. Reader allows users to fill out forms in PDFs, but they can’t change any existing text or formatting without help from a specialized application.

Safe and Secure: PDF increases the security and confidentiality of the entire document by using applications such as watermarks, passwords or digital signatures.

Copy/Paste: Native PDFs are flexible in that you can copy information, such as text, and paste it elsewhere.

Indexable: PDF files that contain good content and are available on websites can be made visible in search engines. 

What PDFs don’t do well

PDFs make it easier for people to distribute documents without the need to print them. But it doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

File size: While it’s possible to convert just about any file into a PDF without sacrificing quality, something the size of a catalog cannot be easily sent through email without bogging down servers and filling work email inboxes.

Single URL (bad for SEO): A catalog PDF can contain hundreds of pages, but even a single lengthy yet content-rich PDF file will be equal to one URL in the eyes of the search engine. So, while a search engine result might display a PDF catalog, the user would have to start at the front page and work their way to the page where they thought that product exists. 

Dirxion’s HTML5-based catalogs are developed to be crawled and indexed, page-by-page, by search engines. An HTML5 search result would take the user to the most relevant page of an HTML5-based catalog where that product exists without forcing the user to start at the beginning of the catalog.

Absence of any Tracking Mechanism: In the general sense, tracking stats like open rate cannot be applied to PDF files. Downloads of that PDF from your website can be tracked through programs like Google Analytics. But you won’t learn anything about your reader’s interest and purchasing behavior, how they move around within your PDF once downloaded.

Enter Dirxion.

Where PDFs lag, Dirxion picks up the slack, taking the best of the PDF and making it a richer online experience.

Unlike browsable PDFs or even digital flipbooks, which lack interactive capabilities and responsiveness, Dirxion transforms your existing PDF files to an HTML5-based online publication that has the look and feel of a real, page-turning publication along with some additional features that aren’t available with a stand-alone PDF catalog.

Using HTML5 (Hyper Text Markup Language) technology, your digital catalog will work in all modern browsers and devices, regardless of screen size. 

HTML5 enables Dirxion to enhance the user and/or shopping experience. Components can be added to an HTML5 catalog to better promote the items on the page to encourage purchasing. HTML5 catalogs can house functionality like video, audio, and button rollover functionality, making the user interaction a favorable experience.

With Dirxion, you can even publish your catalog in the Google Play and Apple iTunes stores to reach a broader audience and push notifications to your customers.

If you’re still unsure why your PDF catalog is no longer getting noticed, here are five ways Dirxion improves digital catalogs beyond a PDF:

Dirxion’s Bookshelf feature
  1. Easy content navigation: Many of our clients have product catalogs that are hundreds, even thousands, of pages long each.

    Dirxion’s catalog software uses three features to improve content navigation within each catalog as well as the complete library:

    Bookshelf: Present your content marketing in a multi-publication interface equipped with advanced search features like language filters and cross-publication search.

    Tear Pages: Enable sales and marketing teams to select and create their own custom collections and presentations with your print pages.

    Product search: Use our robust search feature to search for something specific, either within the catalog or within the entire bookshelf.
Brandon Mitchener from Dirxion touches on accessibility and ADA compliance.
  1. Accessibility: Making a digital catalog that is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, is important and more visible than ever. Not all digital catalog solutions get this part right, so it’s important to evaluate this carefully to avoid a lawsuit.

    Dirxion adheres to W3C and WCAG recommendations, while many in the industry are slow to adapt, favoring complacency over compliance. In fact, many catalog solutions on the market today still do not pass ADA requirements.
  1. Search engine visibility: With a fully-digital catalog solution, your content can be easily searched by Google and found by your customers. Customize keywords, extract the text of the PDF, and adapt page titles to maximize search engine visibility.

    Dirxion’s HTML5-based catalogs are developed to be crawled and indexed, page-by-page, by search engines. An HTML5 search result would take the user to the most relevant page of an HTML5-based catalog where that product exists without forcing the user to start at the beginning of the catalog.

    Although the publication is hosted outside your website, data shows that off-site SEO-related factors likely carry more than 50% of the ranking factor weight. And the backlinks found in your Dirxion-hosted publication pointing back to your website are healthy for your site’s SEO.
  1. Easier to share: Integrate your digital catalog directly into your website, blog or email campaign or easily share your catalog on social media to boost reach.
  1. Deep analytics tracking: PDFs lack the ability to collect data about your users and you won’t be able to measure specific actions like click rates or read-time. But each Dirxion online catalog is supported with Google Analytics, and customers can provide tracking codes from their own analytics platforms to compile transparent and comprehensive results. This tells an ROI and conversion story that won’t let you down.

As you can see, your PDF catalog is the starting point to creating a digital catalog that provides an amazing experience for your customers and delivers profitable ROI.

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Adobe Flash officially terminated, Adobe encourages move toward HTML5

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Adobe announced recently that it has officially initiated plans to end-of-life Adobe Flash, which means they will no longer update or distribute the Flash Player by 2020. Included in the brief, Adobe made mention to other open source languages, such as HTML5, and encouraged developers and content creators to migrate over to these industry standards. Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla all made announcements following the release of the news, who outlined how the Flash withdrawal would operate on their platforms and offered developers resources to ease the transition into other open source languages.

Largest Internet corporations push Adobe Flash into retirement, favor HTML5

Some of the biggest players on the Internet have continued their anti-Adobe Flash campaign, taking additional measures and continuing on certain plans to make HTML5 the industry standard. Companies such as Facebook, Apple and Google have all taken stands against Flash in attempts to persuade others toward embracing HTML5.

By October of this year, Google will officially de-emphasize Adobe Flash in favor of HTML5, as announced in Google’s blog The Keyword. The current system asks user permission on running Flash the first time a user enters a website that’s either built on Flash or has Flash-supported features. As October approaches though, Google will require permission to run Flash on every instance a user enters that site. Other browsers such as Windows Explorer and Mozilla Firefox have begun following suit, taking measures to phase out Adobe Flash for a more HTML5-friendly Internet.

 

Adobe Flash’s security concerns have been one of the most referenced reasons for its fall from Internet favor. In 2015, Adobe Flash accounted for eight of the top 10 most referenced vulnerabilities used by exploit kits, according to Recorded Future. Steve Jobs took a stand against Adobe Flash in April of 2010, shortly before the iPhone 4 was released. Jobs cited security concerns and restricted performance capabilities when Apple devices operated on Flash, echoed by industry reviews. Kyle Wagner of Gizmodo says, “Adobe was never really able to smooth over performance, battery and security issues.”

“Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.” —Steve Jobs, 2010

Consumers are becoming accustomed to an HTML5-optimized viewing experience and often react poorly to websites or features that use Flash’s clunkier, poorly-optimized technology. Most recently, streaming platform Filmstruck used a Flash player for its movies and users have reported both quality issues and issues white listing the feature through Flash-blocking software.

Dirxion online catalogs first shifted away from Flash five years ago and opted for a more reliable product with HTML5. Today, the online catalog is one of Dirxion’s strongest platforms, using HTML5, Javascript and CSS to provide a custom design for the user’s shopping experience.

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