Updated: January 2020
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PagePipe is anti-waste and pro-thriftiness about more than just web speed. We don’t like the misuse of any web resources. Conservation and recycling create a better web ecosystem.
Find more time and space from positive optimization side-effects:
- Don’t waste bandwidth.
- Don’t waste server space.
- Don’t waste the user’s time waiting.
- Don’t waste your own time trying to optimize individual files.
“Portable Document Format” PDF is a powerful technology that can produce large, unwieldy files. Bloated PDFs are a big source of wasted resources. PagePipe publishes PDFs at a 150-dpi print resolution. We start with print quality and then optimize for web publication, too.
PDFs are usually created with a desktop, page-layout program at one of three different qualities:
- 72dpi screen resolution with embedded fonts for screen reading.
- 150dpi print resolution for laser printer output on paper.
- 300dpi for press resolution on glossy, magazine-like printing.
PDF quality settings affect web user experience. Those UX factors include:
- Download time.
- Offline printing time.
- On-screen visual quality.
Our PDFs are 11 x 7 inches horizontal (landscape format) for screen reading and for printing on letter-size paper. That is 1099 x 699 pixels. A computer viewing screen can be much larger than that. A PDF reader utility may use a best fit to fill the entire screen.
For example, a common 19″ screen size is 1024 x 768 pixels. That makes for a pretty good display of our PDFs. But what if the monitor is larger or set for an even higher-resolution view. Then embedded raster-based images look ugly. Type still holds up well because it’s vectored and stretchy. But our PDF content is full of visuals.
Screen resolutions are just too grainy for PagePipe’s design-sensitive audience. We’ve user tested this and they complain about image quality when using 72-dpi, screen-resolution PDFs.
Why? If users read on a large screen, it’s perhaps enlarged by 200 percent or more. This is when image graininess and pixelization starts showing up. Publishing a print-resolution PDF online makes for a more readable, quality format. But it’s still page-weight overkill. There’s that carelessness, again. Things can be better.
Press-quality PDFs are out of the question for us because they’re so heavy. When websites download huge, press-quality PDFs, it’s complete laziness and overkill. A waste! Big downloads happen when print design department’s hands off bloat to their web people. They either don’t know how to optimize or it’s just too much of a hassle. What happens is the user pays the price waiting for long downloads. We call that bad web etiquette. This impoliteness is often overlooked by site builders and owners. They suppose no one will notice – a bad assumption.
Compressed PDFs are a wise communication strategy that is called a post-decisional reassurance. It helps end any possibility of user remorse for pressing a download button. The choice to download is a good one when we get reinforcement of how fast the download is working. It makes us feel like someone cared. To not compress, indicates site-owner apathy about basic user’s needs.
User eXperience (UX) means being polite. Many web developers are inconsiderate of end user’s when they serve uncompressed PDF files. We’re a big advocate that users are grateful for the small polite details of faster downloads. Things feel right. That’s a UX goal. It’s good hospitality.
Was it our brilliance that lead us to find a better optimization process for our case studies? No. In truth, a wonderful image optimization service in Romania pointed out the possibilities. They are ShortPixel, the creators of the ShortPixel Plugin for WordPress. In the web world, Romania isn’t that far away.
ShortPixel pointed out they could optimize more than just our JPEGs or PNG images. They also would improve PDF files. This had never occurred to us. We then realized we were doing things backwards by uploading our PDFs via FTP client.
With the ShortPixel plugin installed, the WordPress Media Library would automatically optimize our PDFs. Faster PDF downloads without stress or hassle was a relief.
ShortPixel compression was a much better compromise for balance between image quality and speed. We were more than satisfied with the results. We were even happy! Unusual for us.
Our PDFs now politely downloaded 3 times faster without visual quality loss for users. Fantastic! It wasn’t as aggressive as screen-quality compression –nor was it as heavy as print-quality. ShortPixel hit the sweet spot for our PDF-publishing needs.
You can now bulk process all your existing PDFs in the WordPress media library. This feature is important when retrofitting an old website for site optimization. Rebuilding an old website is much more painful than building a new fresh one. ShortPixel reduces the pain and frustration during site retrofits.
ShortPixel not only told us the savings for each PDF but also a summary of the total savings from compression for the entire website. It’s a warm fuzzy that makes us feel good about clearing out so much deadwood from our page loads and server space.
Some designers might consider saving server space insignificant. Please remember that for us – with just 10 PDF files – we saved as much hosting space as WordPress occupies. That puts the previous waste into perspective.
We don’t want to store backups on our server. ShortPixel permits deselecting backup if desired. We feel PDF backups are wasteful since we keep copies on our computer and, also, have our site backed up on DropBox. We don’t want junk floating around. If you have backups selected, you can revert to saved originals.
Install the ShortPixel plugin to discover your unrealized potential for website savings.
NOTE: Here’s an online PDF compression tool: For one-at-a-time, manual compression of PDFs, visit http://www.verypdf.com/online/free-pdf-compress-online.php >
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