Rules on publishing documents and PDFs in HTML first

Website content should be HTML by default. There are a few exceptions for when Word or PDF documents are acceptable.

    What content should be digital-first?

    The following content types must not be created as PDFs:

    • fact sheets
    • grant guidelines
    • video transcripts
    • forms - visit the Design forms digital guide for designing best-practise online forms
    • speeches
    • newsletters


    The exceptions to our HTML-first requirement are PDFs that were specifically design for print, including:

    • promotional posters
    • activity sheets

    These PDFs must be fully accessible.

    Where activity sheets or templates require the user to fill in extra information on a computer, use a Word document.

    Find out how to design accessible Word and PDF documents.

    If the audience is a niche audience and user interviews indicate that print documents are preferred, an exception can be applied for with the Director of Digital Engagement. Content for the general public must always be published as HTML.

    Rules for publishing PDFs and Word documents

    Your document is accessible

    That's great, but we still require an HTML version. If there's a demonstrated user need, you can provide a PDF or Word document as well.

    Your document is not accessible

    If your document is not accessible, we'll allow it to be published on an SDP site only if it's an essential tool for someone to carry out their work or deal with government. However, you must work to make it accessible ASAP.

    We won't publish it if:

    • the content has inaccuracies (eg broken links)
    • there have been less than 50 views in a year (existing content for migration to SDP)
    • it is more than 5 years old and no longer has any relevance to the current policy and programs of government

    If the document isn't essential, we won't migrate to the new site.

    If the content owner wants to keep/migrate a PDF, it's their responsibility to create an HTML alternative.

    Where it is an essential tool and the content owner doesn't have the time or resources to deliver an accessible alternative, then an agreed remediation/review date will be set in the system.

    Choosing the right template

    Choose what template you use in the CMS depending on the length of your document:

    • 4 pages or more: use the Single Digital Presence (SDP) publications template  
    • less than 4 pages: 1 or 2 content pages (using the landing page template) is sufficient

    How to use the publication template

    The publications template is print-friendly (as are all pages on websites built using the SDP content management system) so PDFs are no longer needed as a requirement for printing.

    Reviewed 10 June 2021

    Vic Gov digital guide

    What's next?

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