Mobile friendly alternatives to PDFs

Scott West

Studio Manager

Posted on March 24, 2017

Over the years PDFs have become the go-to format for presenting and sharing documents. With the ease of creation and near universal compatibility – it’s easy to see why. However the world has gone mobile and the new vast array of smaller screen sizes threatens the PDF user experience.

PDFs just aren’t very good for display on a mobile screen. Users frequently have to pinch, zoom and scroll into different sections – which is less than ideal. Fortunately there are a number of options that can help.


We’ve discussed Issuu before in a previous blog, where we gave an overview of the advantages of online publishing over print, and described how Issuu can transform static PDFs into something far more appealing on a desktop.

However, Issuu also offers a decent mobile experience by automatically rescaling your PDFs, and:


  • Allowing you to embed a HTM5 viewer directly into your website. The viewer is responsive and works across phone and tablet devices. Check out their example here on a mobile device to see it working
  • Providing a free ‘viewer’ app which users can install to view your publication. However some of Issuu’s nice animations are disabled in this app – though it does provide an easy way for a user to save your publication on their mobile device


Issuu offers significant advantages over standard PDFs, particularly on mobile devices. However, it does not completely eliminate the frustrations associated with viewing documents on a mobile device. To provide a truly seamless experience, documents must be adapted specifically for mobile devices by converting to the HTML5 format. Luckily YUDU makes this laborious task easier with their PhoneView technology.

Yudu essentially offers a semi-automated service, converting your PDFs into responsive HTML5. When someone requests your document Yudu will detect their platform. If they are using a desktop they can view the PDF, if they are on a mobile device they see the HTML5 version.

It is important to note that Yudu does not do all of the work for you. Their platform uses a number of modular bolt-ons, which allow you to define HTML5 templates and map these to your PDFs. Yudu then imports the PDF content into your HTML5 templates. You will need to produce the HTML5 templates, make the mapping and then check the results.


Yudu entails more manual work than Issuu – which is completely automated. However users do get a truly seamless experience, as it results in a HTML5 document designed specifically for a mobile device. If your PDFs are fairly basic then Issuu will probably suffice. However if your PDFs are complex, with lots of data and charts, then Yudu may provide a better experience.

Alternatively consider replacing your PDFs with HTML5 webpages which will provide universal compatibility across all devices, and provide better SEO.