People don’t just read websites, they also print them.
Imagine a company is doing research online looking for potential suppliers, they will be discussing candidates in a meeting with some other staff at their company. They will undoubtedly want to print pages from websites, possibly the contact pages, and maybe a portfolio/case study style page from each candidate to take in for discussion and comparison. If your pages don’t print out properly, or cause this company problems, then you will not be on the shortlist.
If you have ever tried printing web pages then you’ll know that the results can be pretty bad at times. Bits go off the right hand edge of the page. The menu and all the page graphics seem to get priority thus sucking your ink cartridges dry, and with ink cartridges costing more than a bottle of champagne these days this is far from ideal.
Website designers realised this a while back, but the solution was clumsy and labour intensive. A second version of the page would be created, a “printer friendly” version, that would print just fine, although this approach would double the workload each time an update was made to the site.
There is a simple solution to this problem.
By building a website using web standards the content on a web page will be completely separated from the styling information into 2 distinct layers (there is actually a 3rd layer, the behavior layer which makes clever stuff happen). This style information is stored in a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS), details of which will be discussed in a future post.
With the content separate like this it is then possible to attach an alternative set of styling information. A “print” stylesheet can be specified and can control the layout and style of everything on the page which you as a site visitor won’t see, unless you click the “print preview” button in your web browser.
It is possible to hide elements on the page, such as graphics, the menu system, advertising banners etc, and also possible to show extra information, perhaps your website address and contact numbers could appear on each print-out, which do not appear visibly on the on-screen web page.
It is also possible to set sizes and colours of headings and paragraphs to be printed, and set the page margins so nothing goes off the edge of the page.
All this means you can control precisely what gets printed out, making it much easier for the person doing the printing. They will have all the information they need arranged perfectly on their printed pages. Everyone is happy…!
Try printing your web pages today, and see how they come out. Would you want these print-outs to be a spokesperson for your company?