Top 5 tweaks you must do to your PDF documents before publishing them

Between the time it takes to create a PDF file and publish it, you may end up earning yourself a bad name. One that lives on forever—in the form of a lame PDF document! While a bit more goes into creating a lean and mean PDF files, by following this blog post you can save yourselves some embarrassing content authoring, document production, and SEO mistakes.

Create a PDF document using PDFMaker

Many applications are supported by PDFMaker. Use the plugin to create a PDF document from a source file. As opposed to say, printing the source document to the PDF print driver or taking a screenshot and creating a PDF from clipboard.

Using PDFMaker ensures that the metadata, the quality settings, and the privacy settings, as set by the document author, are respected and incorporated into the output. Some functionality is only available via this route, like creation of PDF bookmarks.

Acrobat ribbon in MS Word

Acrobat ribbon in MS Word

Set the various options in document properties dialog

Once you PDF document is created, press Ctrl+D (alternatively, click File > Properties) to access the Document Properties dialog.

In the Description tab, mention the Title, Author, Subject, and Keywords. Many of these values are best set as the metadata in the source file. This helps ensure the PDF document contains these options every time a new PDF is generated.

Using the settings in the Initial View tab, you may want to display the document title, instead of the PDF file name, in the title bar of the PDF. You may want to also display the bookmarks or other available options when the PDF opens. From the Initial View tab, you can control the magnification, first page to open, placement on the screen, etc. when the PDF is opened. You can also hide one or more of the menu bar, the tool bar, and the windows controls.

Initial view in Acrobat Document Properties

Initial view in Acrobat Document Properties

Less common options you can set are add more meta information in the Custom tab and set printing mode (DuplexMode field) to ‘Duplex Flip Long Edge’ to save paper when your document is printed.

In the Fonts tab, ensure the uncommon fonts used in the document are embedded. Avoid print and display errors during PDF consumption in different environments. than the one it was created in. Do check the end user license agreement of the font for any possible restrictions on embedding them in a PDF.

Detailed official help is here.

Get your bookmarks in order

First, get bookmarks. Use the optimum styles in your source document and use the settings in the Acrobat plugin to generate PDF bookmarks.

Do not stop at this, else you may end up shipping a PDF document with bookmarks out of order. Decide whether you want only the Level 1 bookmarks to be expanded or even Level 2 (or Level 3) bookmarks expanded. The software supported by PDFMaker, contain some settings to create bookmarks.

Create PDF bookmarks in Adobe FrameMaker

Create PDF bookmarks in Adobe FrameMaker

Create PDF bookmarks in MS Word

Create PDF bookmarks in MS Word

Check my previous blog post, to collapse the PDF bookmarks and retain that state in the PDF.

Accessibility

Accessibility options in Acrobat

Accessibility options in Acrobat tools pane

Accessibility Checker in Acrobat

Accessibility Checker report in Acrobat

Run the accessibility check on your PDF and check for, at least, the obvious things that you can fix. For example, mention the alt text of the images, create a tagged PDF, OCR the scanned content, and so on.
You can quickly do an accessibility audit of your PDF document using the Full Check option from the above screenshot. Accessibility Checker runs a customizable check for up to 32 parameters.

Optimize the PDF for the required use case

You may want to optimize your PDF depending on the use case and target audience. Some common optimizations are to reduce the file size to conserve bandwidth, to flatten the form fields, to remove common fonts to reduce file size, to add uncommon fonts for a smooth experience, enable Fast Web View for byte-serving of large documents, and so on.

Acrobat option to save as an Optimized PDF

Acrobat option to save as an Optimized PDF

Learn all about optimizing PDF files here and in the video below.

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How unempowered customer care departments erode brand value

Customer support is the face of any organization.

No, media adverts are not.
No, marketing department is not.
No, retail outlets are not.
People in the retail outlets are, and they are, in principle, a part of customer facing group.

Customer experience business units when not empowered to wow the customers, are helpless in the face of customer interactions/queries/issues. This erodes the brand value like nothing else. As always, no business unit wants to end up doing so. Even though the individuals stick to the script, the textbook, the processes, and the guidance from higher ups, erosion just happens. Almost as if by magic! At times, this is how we customers are left to feel, not wanting to give you our money anymore.

Leaving a person dangling in an obstacle course

Leaving a person dangling in an obstacle course

I shall even claim that in 80% of the cases,

fine print exists because the businesses want to safeguard themselves against whatever they cannot fix for good.

The good news is, simply start by fixing the following frequently heard of ways, some of which are (unintentionally) in vogue in your customer-facing teams.

  • Feedback: Sure I shall take your improvement for feedback and deposit it in the system for implemention AFTER we solve your problem using our traditional methods, against which your feedback is.
  • Protocols: But this is the only process!
  • Terms and conditions: You signed the form yourself. It clearly indicates these surcharges/conditions/noservice clause/etc.
  • Helpless: I realize it is my organizations mistake, but I am sorry, I cannot fix it.
  • Call volume: Due to xyz issue, our call center is flooded with calls right now. Please hold for a long time/call later/call another number/try self-help/etc.
  • Replacement: (Just because you raised a hue and cry on social media) We shall provide a discount/replacement/cash back/special call/vouchers/etc. just this once. Please be happy and don’t give us more bad air through your social channels.
  • Social Media: The organization is so afraid of and naive to anything (negative) on social media that if you raised a issue it has to be resolved. The organization shall divert more resources than requied to provide social support rather than other traditional support methods.
  • Talk offline: Please message your contact details, so we can take it offline. That way the organization does not have to publicly respond on a social media channel.
  • Changes in the deal: This deal and the contract can change any time without notice. The company is not liable to provide this offer once it expires. And customers don’t have a way of knowing when it expires!
  • Process changes: No, it does not work this way anymore. We have shifted to a better process without retaining the classic one for old timers like you. Please join us in following this exciting, super deluxe, certified, and acclaimed way of doing things now. By the way, we did not think your inputs before or your feedback afterwards was necessary. Forget about transition and hand-holding through the change.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons here.

How techcomm pros can lower the barriers to entry in a support system and improve the overall UX of a support channel

After serving me well for more than five years, today my LG microwave wouldn’t start. It’s unimaginable to spend a day at home with a toddler and a non-working microwave! I went through another unimaginable experience today–how some companies raise the barrier for customers to join their official support system. For example, when one heads over to LG’s support system at http://www.lg.com/in/support/repair-service/schedule-repair, they ask you to log in or register. One has to fill in a long form and specifically provide the serial number and date of purchase of the appliance. While this is mandatory information to keep out non-customers and to ascertain warranty, it is by no means a mandatory information for registering on the site!

LG support registration options

LG support registration options

 

A better customer experience should be to get as many customers into the fold of formal support system, as easily as possible. Once folks are in with their identity, you have more information and opportunities to customize the experience and gain the trust of this person forever. What a great opportunity to make repeat customers! Support after all is not a cost center, but a profit center (see http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/04/thinking-lifetime-dont-break-the-chain.html).

You may wonder, what this has to do with techcomm, writing, content creation, and documentation. Anything and everything a customer sees on the Support page or login is content! We writers, editors, and designers can create (content) experiences that are personalized for the person logged in. Of course, it needs a lot of smooth engagements within the organization. It is easier said than done. That’s why it is worth doing!

Marketing and branding using support content and web design

As a content creator, customer advocate, and an end-user, here’s a quick list of suggestions from me (more later):

  • Make us navigate only a tad bit. Target for a maximum depth of 1-2 clicks from your home page. Chances are we are in a rush or frustrated or both. Techcomm pros can use web analytics to find browsing paths and optimize those.
  • Use whitespaces and icons on the support pages a lot. You are not selling anything to us right now (except a good experience). Techcomm pros can QA the design, the content, and the overall UX.
  • Make your icons generic and also usable for color blind people. Techcomm pros can QA/audit these.
  • Make yourself accessible on all social networks. Go where your customers are. I am logged into X network all day long and that is the lowest barrier for us to enter in to a conversation with you. Techcomm pros can be available themselves on the social networks or facilitate the usage of social media.
  • Make login creation an easy process. You can also identify us by our customer IDs, our mobile numbers, or our product serial numbers. Techcomm pros can consult with the engineering/IT teams on the requirements.
  • Allow social media integration to authenticate on your support systems. Do respect the boundaries though! If a customer is looking for help or resolution and you push advertisements to their network in this scenario, be ready to hear profanities. Of the kind, I cannot describe on this blog. YES, you deserve nothing less for such a shameless plug. Techcomm pros can be the eyes and ears of an organization and alert about unwanted/intrusive scenarios.
  • What’s stopping you from making a login on my behalf when you get to know my mail ID? Assign an auto-generated password and mail me the details. Appear generous and don’t insert any other information in this email. Techcomm pros can QA the UX and consult on the customer needs.
  • Promptly publish all methods to contact you, without making us hunt for them. We may want to call you one day but want to ping on a social network another day. See the above point about being present where your customers are present. Techcomm pros can update the content appropriately and can champion social media usage.
  • Find a way to have smart front desk staff members–call centers, receptionists, personal delivery guys, waiters, salesmen, and social media people). We customers judge you all the time. Even after you’ve made the sale. Techcomm pros can help with trainings, case studies, internal QA and audits, and facilitation.

SEO mantra for genuine search engine success

It’ll be a cold day in hell, if they stop generating articles after articles on SEO by the minute. Much has been said and it has been put to some great use. The advice I come across most often is to write for the real user! As searchenginewatch.com explains, In SEO, It’s Not What You Do, It’s How You Do It!

Essence of SEO

How goes SEO in reality

I suggest the mantra to do genuine optimization activities and to understand the importance (or lack of it) for any SEO activity is to tell yourself that,

Search engines are just hyper-vigilant end-users!

I decide on SEO tasks, based on this criteria:

If a site visitor does not want it, search engines definitely look down upon it.

Any SEO guideline I look at, fulfills the above criteria. Ask yourself a question, ‘Would an end-user want this?’ and if the answer is yes, then it is a good SEO task to do. How badly would the end-users want it, defines the priority for the SEO task. Some example below.

User expectation SEO guideline
Would a user want a faster page load time? Yes. Needed sorely. Right now. Load time of a page/site decides their positioning in search results. See this.
Would a user want the content to be accessible? Yes. The more, the better. Accessibility indeed helps in SEO tremendously. See this and this.
Would a user like link spam, say from a source you paid money to buy links? No. Users hate to be spammed! Do not engage in any link building that is nefarious. See this.

Hence the recent move in the industry towards Search Experience Optimization (SEO), rather than Search Engine Optimization. The essence of all SEO activities is to provide the best possible experience to the site visitor. All SEO tactics are rooted in the principles of usability. Optimization for the search engine is just a means to an end.

Edited, May 22, 2015: Even Google officially recommends this approach in as many words! Check out their guiding questions in the section ‘What counts as a high-quality site?’, in the article More guidance on building high-quality sites. “We encourage you to keep questions like the ones above in mind as you focus on developing high-quality content rather than trying to optimize for any particular Google algorithm.