Print-friendly web pages may be something you don't think much about. However the odds are high that your web pages aren't print-friendly. Only a small fraction of your visitors may wish to print out some web pages. Nevertheless they may well be the most enthusiastic visitors you have. Of course in some cases by modifying the printer set-up and using landscape pages or Printing to Fit, if they remember, they may be able to do something. However many may give up in frustration.

What Proportion Of Web Pages Are Print-Friendly?

The question of whether a web page is print-friendly depends on the browser. More than 80% of your website visitors may be using some version of Internet Explorer so let's examine how websites perform in it. Whether a web page is print-friendly can be checked by choosing the Print Preview option from the File choices on the browser navigation menu. Taking a random group of 10 manufacturing and services companies, 8 out of the 10 proved to have non-print-friendly web pages. The most frequent problem was that a slice was cut off the right side of the web page.

Why Are So Many Web Pages Non-Print-Friendly?

Many web pages are designed for wider resolution screens such as 1024 x 768 pixels. However a web page designed even for a 800 x 600 pixel screen may still have print-friendly problems. No browser can naturally accomodate 800 pixels of width content within the printable area. Internet Explorer uses an even narrower printable area than other browsers, since the default left and right margins are both 0.75 inches. This would naturally accommodate just under 675 pixels of width content. So a slice at the right is lost.

What Would An Ideal Print-Friendly Web Page Look Like?

The ideal print-friendly web page will not have large colored images, nor huge fonts that use up large amounts of printer ink or paper. It does not need to include navigation bars or advertisements. All that is required is the text in some viewer-friendly serif font such as Times Roman and printed on a white background.

How To Create Print-Friendly Web Pages

There are three methods available to have available print-friendly versions of web pages.

1. Two copies of each web page, one for the screen and one for the printer.

2. A corresponding Adobe PDF file for each web page

3. One web page with two style sheets, one for the screen and one for the printer.

The first method is very inefficient. The second is equally inefficient and brings in the usability problems that some people experience with PDF files. The third is surprisingly easy and very effective. An excellent source here is CSS Design: Going to Print by Eric Meyer of AListApart. A good example of this in application is the SMM website.

So be accommodating to those enthusiastic website visitors who want to keep a hard copy of your website's pages. Make your web pages print-friendly. Remember those people may be your customers tomorrow.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
October 17, 2005

Barry Welford works with Business Owners and Senior Management of manufacturing and service companies on Internet Marketing Strategy and Action Plans to grow their companies. This includes the development of selling effective websites that can generate leads and sales. Such websites must have high searchability (SEO), usability, credibility and sales generating capabilities.

Barry has been in business in Montreal for over 30 years. He has been helping medium-sized and small businesses achieve better business performance during the last 20 years, while running his own businesses. He has extensive international business experience, particularly in marketing. He has degrees from Cambridge and London in the U.K.

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