Webpage vs. Document

The decision to post content as a webpage or a document depends on a number of factors:

  • Who is the audience for this content? (If there is more than one audience, who is the most important?)
  • What information do they need? (Am I giving them more than necessary?)
  • How are they most likely to consume the information? (Will they want to find it with their mobile device? Print out the information? File it? Read it in another language?)
  • How important is the format in conveying the information? (Does it need to be displayed in a certain way? And does that way work across all web, mobile and assistive devices?)
  • Does the content change frequently? (What's the best plan for making the most current information is always the information most readily available?)

Think about the answers to these questions as you consider whether to post your content as a document or a webpage. And keep in mind the following attributes of each format as you make your decision:



  • Accessible: Content posted on the University's approved content management systems will meet modern accessibility standards with a minimum of input from the user.
  • Responsive: With the proliferation of responsive design, mobile devices and social media, it's more important than ever to separate content from format. Your content will be ready to display and share in whatever medium suits it best.
  • Application-, browser- and platform-independent: You can access the content on any browser or platform you want, regardless of whether your user owns the application in which it was created.
  • Device-independent: Better for mobile as well as assistive devices.
  • Better for search engine optimization: The entire text of your document can be crawled and indexed by Google.
  • Easily updated: You can update and overwrite the old version without worrying about previously cached versions.
  • Easily deleted: It can take much longer for Google to remove a cached document from its search results.
  • Redirectable: URLs can be redirected if newer/better resources become available.
  • Translatable: Google and other services can translate a webpage into other languages with ease.


  • Limited Formatting for Print: If you have formatted a form within an inch of its life to fit perfectly on a 8.5x11" sheet of paper, it's just not going to look as pretty as an online form.



  • Maximum Formatting for Print: You have more control over the formatting and output of your content.


  • Not Accessible by Default: Creating an accessible document requires significant training and work on the part of the user, or potentially costly remediation.
  • Application-dependent: If you have a Word doc online and your visitors don't have Microsoft Office, you may lose control over your formatting (fonts, tables, etc).
  • Fixed-size: Ever tried to open an 8.5x11 PDF on a mobile phone? Be prepared to pinch and zoom.
  • Forever: Post a document on your site and anyone can download and save it. Even if you succeed in overwriting the document with a newer version down the line (easier said than done), there's no telling who will go on using the old one. Indefinitely.