Interactive PDF Guide: Ideas, Examples, Ways to Create

Interactive PDF Guide

PDFs are notorious for their clumsiness and dated look. Often treated (or mistreated) as raw pre-print files, they lack proper design, take ages to scroll through, and strain your eyes when you’re trying to read those tiny letters on your smartphone screen. 

Not fun.

But there’s a way to transform your PDF file into a powerful and engaging online experience that will captivate readers and turn them into ardent fans of your content. The key? Making the PDF interactive.

So, let’s discuss what an Interactive PDF is, along with some ideas and ways to create one (preferably, without going anywhere near Adobe InDesign).

 

What Is an Interactive PDF?

At its core, an interactive PDF is a PDF document that incorporates a variety of rich media content: links, audio and video files, images, GIFs, clickable buttons, and fillable forms. 

In other words, an interactive PDF combines all the benefits of the traditional format—like universality and security—with dynamic digital web experiences.

 

Why Interactive PDF Stands Out

Crafting a rich media document certainly takes time and effort. So why should you invest in it? Well, here are just a few reasons to make your PDFs interactive:

 

1. Interactivity makes people stay in your content longer

Incorporating various additional content, such as videos, links, GIF animations, and fillable forms makes your document up to 52.6% more engaging, drawing readers in and encouraging them to explore it further.

 

2. Interactive content is more accessible

With the right approach, you can make your PDF document easier to navigate and thus accessible to a wider audience. For example, adding audio to support your text will provide an alternative way to consume the content. And an interactive table of contents may improve navigation around a document and cater to people with motor challenges.

 

3. Interactive PDFs are easier to brand and design

In branding, consistency is key. Interactive PDFs, especially presented as flipbooks, give more opportunities to achieve it by letting you mark the content as your own with logos, colors, and other branding elements.

 

4. Interactive PDFs are more personalized

Some tools let your readers highlight texts and leave comments within your content. This can be helpful for students when working with textbooks, or for employees studying company guides.

 

5. Interactive PDFs are easy to share

These days, the most common way to make your PDF interactive is by converting it into an HTML document. A document like that is typically hosted in the cloud, making it available via a link rather than a downloadable file. No more email attachments, no more file transfers—you can just send the document link to your reader. Or post it on your social media, so everyone can instantly open it on their device. Isn’t it neat?

 

Interactive PDF Examples

Almost any PDF content can benefit from an enhancement with interactivity. But don’t take our word for it! Here are some real-life interactive PDF examples to inspire you.

An Interactive Catalog Example

Moore & Giles Leather Catalog

 

Catalogs and interactivity go hand-in-hand. You can showcase products in motion with videos and GIFs, demonstrate range with pop-up image galleries, add shoppable links, or link products directly to your online store, simplifying the ordering process for your buyers.

In the example above, Moore & Giles uses pop-ups with high-resolution photos, letting viewers examine products in detail. Paired with branding and an engaging page flip effect, the catalog not only drives sales but also boosts the company’s branding.

An Interactive Report Example

Reports play an important role in businesses, whether they’re demonstrating company successes or securing investors' trust. Interactivity can make reports even more impactful by improving user engagement and visual appeal. 

The Christie NHS Trust Annual Review

 

In this interactive PDF example by The Christie NHS Trust, the company brings its report to life with GIF animations and embedded videos. GIFs highlight important figures, while videos help tell patients’ stories in a more tangible, powerful way. As a result, the report grabs the reader’s attention from the first page and motivates them to keep exploring.

An Interactive Brochure Example

Helping to attract and inform clients, a brochure is often a key document in marketing and sales—even in today’s digital age. It’s also the first document a client sees, so it’s essential to make it as appealing as possible.

Teach First Brochure

Teach First’s vibrant brochure is a visual delight as it is, but the added interactivity takes it to a new level. In this interactive PDF example, GIFs liven up the static pages, pop-ups provide extra information while saving space, and clickable buttons streamline program registration. 

An Interactive City Guide Example

City guides should be informative and fun, and interactivity helps with both. 

Flip through Helena’s interactive PDF guide to see how they leverage links to make the guide easier to navigate and monetize it with cleverly placed video ads. And since their guide is available online, readers can access it anywhere—which is especially important when you’re exploring a city, constantly on the go, and might not feel like keeping the PDF open or carrying a physical guide around.

The Local Helena City Guide

An Interactive Prospectus Example

Prospectuses and newsletters make up a big part of educational materials. Yet, they often get overlooked, even though they are extremely useful for attracting prospective students and keeping stakeholders—parents, current students, and alumni—informed. 

Swansea University Postgraduate Prospectus

Create yours

 

If you work in education, take a look at this interactive PDF example to learn how you can add value to your prospectuses. Swansea University’s goal is to promote its postgraduate program. It achieves this by incorporating promo videos and blogs to paint a vivid picture of academic life. Plus, the university actively uses links to external resources that provide all the necessary information without overwhelming the reader.

 

How to Create an Interactive PDF

Option 1: Create an Interactive Document with Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign offers great functionality that lets you incorporate GIFs, videos, and even fillable forms into a PDF,  but we won’t cover the process in this article. The reason for this is that all the interactive elements and ways to add them are quite complicated and should be studied separately. And, of course, you have to be familiar with the software’s capabilities to be able to implement rich media content. Which in turn would mean that you are an expert already and wouldn’t be reading this post!

 

Option 2: Create an Interactive PDF with FlippingBook

FlippingBook is digital publishing software that converts your PDFs into HTML5 online documents. You can then customize the documents by adding interactive content, such as videos and links, lead capture forms, pop-up image galleries, and GIFs.

In contrast to Adobe tool, FlippingBook is user-friendly and doesn’t require any special skills. The creation process is so simple, that you can have a powerful interactive PDF in a matter of minutes. 

On top of interactivity, creating documents with FlippingBook gives you a few additional perks:

  • Your PDFs are instantly available online, as links or as embeds on your website.
  • Documents are trackable, so you can see who interacted with your content, when, and for how long.
  • You can brand your documents with a clickable logo, your corporate colors, and a custom link.
  • You can update your document under the same link. There’s no need to resend the file when a new version of your document comes out.

If you don’t have any rich media content like videos or GIFs on hand, the easiest way to spice up your static PDF is by turning it into a life-like flipbook. This way, your PDF is converted into an HTML5 publication that has a realistic page flip effect, intuitive controls, a nice design, and some level of branding. 

Your PDF file will immediately look neat and professional. And what’s more important, it will provide a great reading experience even on small mobile screens. In most cases, the ability to access the content and read it comfortably is what really matters.

💡 Don't have a ready PDF yet?

Create your PDF in Canva and publish it to FlippingBook right from your Canva account. To give you inspiration, we’ve designed five stunning Canva templates: digital flipbook, catalog, magazine, brochure, and newsletter. Add any template to your Canva account and customize it to your liking. And then publish to FlippingBook straight away.

Learn more →

Bonus: Interactive PDF Ideas


1. Video

Video is the first choice when it comes to adding interactivity. It’s unsurprising, given that video is perhaps the most popular type of content on the web. It is used in everything from education to advertising to entertainment. And this trend will only grow with people watching an average of 16 hours of online videos daily—a 52% increase from 2 years ago.

So, how can you use videos to make your PDFs interactive? Here are a few ideas for you to try out.

Social videos. These are clips showing your staff members and customers talking about their experiences with your company. This kind of video gives a huge boost to your credibility and helps establish trust. Best of all, they are simple to make—no need for complex animations, endless script revisions, and costly setups. Just grab a camera, choose a good light and a willing colleague—and you’re good to go.

Explainer videos. At their core, these are short informative videos that illustrate and explain complex ideas. Obviously, you can use this type of video to enhance your educational content and create better guides and handbooks. But their real power lies in marketing. It’s a perfect medium to explain the perks of your product or service in a concise, fun, and engaging way. Are you working on a company brochure or a commercial proposal? Add an explainer video and watch conversions grow. Here’s how we do it at FlippingBook.

Video ads. No one likes non-skippable intrusive banners, but for many marketers and creators, ads are the only way to make some profit from the content they produce. 

Injecting short, quality video ads into your PDF-based marketing materials can help soothe that initial irritation. People love videos, and they love to have a choice to watch one, so the chances that your ads will be watched are quite high.


2. Pop-up Image Galleries

Using clickable image galleries is a surefire way to make your content stand out without putting much effort into it. 

Pop-up images are images that enlarge on click. You can use them to add more product images or create entire image galleries within your PDF.

 

3. GIFs

It may seem that GIFs are good solely for entertainment and Slack channel reactions, but they are a quick and relatively simple way to bring your PDFs to life and make them look more professional. 

And there is more to GIFs than you might think. Check out our article on using GIFs in your publications to learn about the ways that GIFs can help you in marketing, sales, and education. 


4. Lead Capture Form
Traditionally, a lead capture form is placed on a webpage, acting as a gateway to downloadable content—such as your PDF. While it’s a valid and reliable way to encourage sign-ups, any friction on the way to the content will throw some people off.

You can use digital publishing software like FlippingBook to embed a customizable lead capture form right into your PDF. Not only will this make the content more interactive, but it will also provide additional benefits. For example, you can give readers a taste of your content by placing a lead capture form a few pages into the PDF. This kind of preview will get people engaged in reading, and when it’s time for them to sign up, they will be more likely to do so. 

Also, you can share the PDF on social media and by email without worrying that people will download and distribute it on the web, bypassing your sign-up page. Here’s an example of an interactive document with an embedded lead capture form to demonstrate how it works.


5. Page Flip Effect

If you don’t have any rich media content like videos or GIFs on hand, the easiest way to spice up your static PDF is by turning it into a life-like flipbook. This way, your PDF is converted into an HTML5 publication that has a realistic page flip effect, intuitive controls, a nice design, and some level of branding. 

Your PDF file will immediately look polished and professional. And what’s more important, it will provide a great reading experience even on small mobile screens. In most cases, the ability to access the content and read it comfortably is what really matters.

 

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