There is nothing like reading an article on the website and finding it one of the best you have ever read – you immediately want to show to it other people. You flick the switch on your printer to on, hit Control + P and prepare for it to emerge. But what do you get? A mess of DHTML, adverts or half the text missed off the edge of the page.
You could always hope the visitor turns their page to landscape but with the length web pages usually turn out like it is not very likely. Save them the trouble of having to print selection or copy and paste into a word processing package by making your pages printer friendly for them to print straight from.
Making them friendly in the first place
There are two main ways to allow visitors to print the pages easily. The first is to make the original web page with the article or content on, the right size to be able to print. For liquid width sites this is ok as long as they can condense down although for fixed width sites this is not as easy.
Generally you have a width of about 600 pixels, which the users printer will print. This is good if you have a navigation or sky scraper advert down the site taking the last 200 pixels of your page as the user does not need these printing. Although if your article goes all the way to the edge its time to rethink the design.
The printer friendly page
This is a more common solution to the problem of visitors not being able to print. All you have to do is set up a separate page without all your adverts, logos and navigation, which is less wide or uses a liquid width so that the user can print this.
Generally you wont want to include adverts on this page, otherwise visitors may not use it at all as they can remove the ads themselves using print selection or copy and pasting the text. However you may want to include your logo and visitors won’t mind and it increases branding when the article is passed around.
If your articles are static then you may end up creating a separate page for each of these but if your articles are dynamic, most likely stored in a database you will simply be able to make a dynamic page just like your main article page for the printer friendly page and link them together.
Making it usable
Whatever solution you use you may want to include a print link to. This will encourage users to print the article simply by clicking the link, as their finger will already be on the mouse button, so users who would not normally print the article may give it a click.
Another good point about users printing the whole page rather than copy and pasting the text into a word processor is that the URL of the page will be at the bottom so other people who read it will see it and when the visitor looks at it later they will remember your website.
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