Where’s the printer-friendly view when you need it?


There are many ways to create printer-friendly versions of a web page. I’m partial to the CSS approach, but that’s beside the point. What I really want to discuss is the logic (or lack thereof) that companies use when deciding which pages on a site will have a printable view available, and which ones have to get by without this option.

I consider myself to be a fairly savvy web user, and I spend virtually the entire work day using web-based applications. I understand how to change the print scaling and perform other tricks, but some pages are just impossible to print correctly. Due to various design mistakes, the text goes right off the page into a nether-world, even if you scale it down to 50% of the original size. And nowhere is this more annoying than in the CRM system we use, salesforce.com.

You see, the good folks at salesforce.com managed to include a printer-friendly link on the pages for accounts, contacts, and cases. But they don’t provide this link on the type of page that I print the most: the event page for a meeting, conference call, etc. Whenever I travel, it makes sense to list relevant details on the event page, but this oversight makes printing a legible page quite the challenge. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to print meeting details from their CRM system.

My point is this: if you’re going to provide a convenience feature like printer-friendly views, try to implement it system-wide. And if you can’t be consistent with it, at least think about when and where your users would be most likely to use the feature. Otherwise, you might make them even more angry than if you had just left the feature out in the first place.

2 Responses to “Where’s the printer-friendly view when you need it?”

  1. Thanks — I only wish more people would start using the CSS method. Even the online publishing giants like nytimes.com are still asking people to click a special link to view the printer-friendly version. By the way, your tips for printer-friendly pages are spot-on — I especially like the one about avoiding inverse type colors. Personally, I hate it when I try to print something and I end up with an 8″ black square that has consumed half my toner cartridge. Using repeating background images is another common way to mess this up, and slows down printing a lot too. Of course, with the CSS method that you and I recommend, the webmaster can prevent all of these issues.

  2. Totally agree with the implementation of printer-friendly pages system-wide. Letting the visitors to your site decide which pages to print should be of utmost importance when integrating this feature. Standardization of printer-friendly pages and placement would be a great move in the right direction.