Best Practices for Online Documents

There are many ways to share content with NIU audiences. It can be hard to know which format to use for what purpose, while ensuring accessibility. When you want to add a document to a website, consider the following to guide your decision. By doing so, you’ll help create a consistent experience for our audience.

If you have any questions about online documents and/or their accessibility, please contact us at

Office Documents

Microsoft Office documents can be added to websites. Let’s say your department has a student handbook in Microsoft Word format. It can be posted online after a quick accessibility check. This involves using styles for your headings instead of bold, for example. Learn more about creating accessible Word documents.


If you have a PDF you want to post online, consider the following:

  • Design complexity: Does it have infographics, charts or artistic elements, like the NIU OneBook?
  • Audience: Is it for a large audience, such as all prospective students, or one that’s more focused, such as the faculty of a certain department?
  • Print needs: Is it intended to be printed, such as a flyer promoting an event?

Simple PDFs

If you have a PDF with a simple design, provide the content in .shtml format instead. If needed, the PDF can be remediated for accessibility and posted. Read more about PDFs and accessibility.

Complex PDFs

If you have a PDF with a complex design intended for a large audience, create an accessible version in another format, or post it with a disclaimer that an accessible version is available upon request.

If you have a complex PDF for a small audience, make your best effort to remediate it for accessibility and post.

If you have a complex PDF that’s designed for print only, provide the content in .shtml format or post it along with a disclaimer.

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