For long documents, reliable printing is essential

18Jun10

While reviewing the terms for a new vendor contract, I needed to print several documents from the vendor’s website. The documents were provided in simple HTML form, which I generally prefer to something like PDF. But when I tried to print them, I ran into a problem. No matter how I scaled the page, the right edge of the text was always cut off.

I’ve seen this problem before, and it can take many forms: text is cut off, only one page is visible, etc. Typically, it results from sloppy work with frames or CSS. Sometimes you can work around the issue, but in the most severe cases, the only solution is to copy and paste the online version into a text document.

Companies need to do a better job with this. In particular, if you’re posting a long document online, make sure to test how it prints in the popular web browsers. And if those tests show there’s a problem, you should coordinate with your web design team to add a printer-friendly CSS stylesheet to the page. Even if customers aren’t complaining about the issue today, a poorly-formatted contract or user’s guide can quickly get them all riled up — turning otherwise cheery customers into an angry mess faster than you can say “PC Load Letter.”



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