Print Preview Page - Yes or No?

10 Mar 2009 - 5:59pm
5 years ago
7 replies
1248 reads
Marty DeAngelo
2007

A recent debate came up that seems to mirror a continuing debate on
the web (at least it seems that way from the time I spent searching
today) - how to present a printable version of a web page to users.

My standard was to always have a print CSS stylesheet that did what
most of them are supposed to do - change the fonts to be more
readable printed, remove extraneous elements, reformat columns, etc.
That's the one thing we all agree on.

However, there is debate about whether the user should be presented
with a 'printable page' view before they print it. We have a
"Print this Page" link/icon on our sites, and I feel that most
people don't need to see a rendering of the page as long as it
prints correctly. So, by clicking the button, they should get a
printed version of the page that is styled to be read offline.

Others feel that they should be offered a preview of the page first,
and then offered the chance to print that page. To me, that seems
like:
1) an extra click to accomplish the task
2) an unnecessary step in the process (particularly if the user were
printing multiple pages)
3) extra programming work to create
4) Easily accomplished by using "Print Preview" (granted, I know
many users WILL NOT do this).

Thoughts on this?

Comments

11 Mar 2009 - 3:21am
Eirik Midttun
2009

I'm the kind of user that like to see what comes out of the printer
before I kill another tree. I don't mind the extra clicks if it can
prevent me from printing if the paper doesn't give me anything
extra.

The problem is that a I have come across sites the interpret
"printer friendly" as having the article on one page instead of 4.
Fonts and layout are the same. And I don't know that. Removing print
preview is maybe a good idea for the future, but until then standards
need to improve.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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11 Mar 2009 - 4:33am
Mike Padgett
2008

Hi again!

I have a (very) general principle that, for web-based resources at least, designers shouldn't attempt to replicate the inherent functionality of the software by which users accesses the resource.

For me, it doesn't help the cause of users if some resources provide these 'widgets', whilst others don't and then all of those that do will do so in slightly different ways. My point being, if the browser software can do it, let the browser software do it, because then the functionality will always be consistent no matter what resource is visited.

So in the same way that I wouldn't have a Print Preview page, I wouldn't include a toggle for font size (cf. your previous post).

Of course, as I said, that's a very general principle. It can't always apply if there are compelling reasons to the contrary. Take Google Maps' Print Preview: it enables the user to adjust his/her map a little before actually printing. In this way, the resource does *not* attempt to suggest that it knows better than the user what precisely should be printed. That is a perfectly acceptable reason to have a resource-generated Print Preview.

Thanks,

Mike

-------------------
www.mikepadgett.com

>A recent debate came up that seems to mirror a continuing debate on
>the web (at least it seems that way from the time I spent searching
>today) - how to present a printable version of a web page to users.
>
>My standard was to always have a print CSS stylesheet that did what
>most of them are supposed to do - change the fonts to be more
>readable printed, remove extraneous elements, reformat columns, etc.
>That's the one thing we all agree on.
>
>However, there is debate about whether the user should be presented
>with a 'printable page' view before they print it. We have a
>"Print this Page" link/icon on our sites, and I feel that most
>people don't need to see a rendering of the page as long as it
>prints correctly. So, by clicking the button, they should get a
>printed version of the page that is styled to be read offline.
>
>Others feel that they should be offered a preview of the page first,
>and then offered the chance to print that page. To me, that seems
>like:
>1) an extra click to accomplish the task
>2) an unnecessary step in the process (particularly if the user were
>printing multiple pages)
>3) extra programming work to create
>4) Easily accomplished by using "Print Preview" (granted, I know
>many users WILL NOT do this).
>
>Thoughts on this?
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11 Mar 2009 - 4:44am
Anonymous

Marty - I agree with you - leave out the print preview step - just
make sure you get your print style sheet right :)

Suze
Twitter: @suzeingram

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Posted from ixda.org (via iPhone)
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11 Mar 2009 - 5:09am
Jens Meiert
2004

> However, there is debate about whether the user should be presented
> with a 'printable page' view before they print it.

>From my experience this debate is utterly pointless (as it is about
duplicating browser functionality) and actually counter-productive,

> Others feel that they should be offered a preview of the page first,
> and then offered the chance to print that page.  To me, that seems
> like:
> 1) an extra click to accomplish the task
> 2) an unnecessary step in the process (particularly if the user were
> printing multiple pages)
> 3) extra programming work to create
> 4) Easily accomplished by using "Print Preview" (granted, I know
> many users WILL NOT do this).

exactly for these reasons – it's a lose/lose in almost all cases.

--
Jens Meiert
http://meiert.com/en/

11 Mar 2009 - 6:11am
Vicky Teinaki
2008

Sounds like a couple of issues here, one about context and the other about
semantics.

Context: is there enough information on the page to warrant people wanting
to specifically print it? Maybe having a "Print" button on a text-light page
is unnecessary. Also, some people's browsers bring up a printer dialog (with
preview option) before print anyway.

Semantics: if the page does warrant a button, instead of using "Print", why
not use "Printable Version" or similar (as some newspapers do)? That way
users can choose to view the page as plain, and then print it as they would
with any other page from the web. I think this gets around the issue of
browser duplication as well.

Overall, I'm guessing there are two different types of users, who should
both be accommodated for:

1. Those who print without previewing (just want to print, would just get
a pleasant surprise from your CSS sheet)
2. Those who do preview (they take a bit more time, would potentially
spot a "Printable Version" button)

(Though these are completely unsubstantiated!)

Vicky

--
Vicky Teinaki
Twitter: vickytnz

11 Mar 2009 - 5:19am
djlittle
2009

Interesting discussion. I agree that one shouldn't introduce an extra
step when printing a page or recreate browser functionality within a
page (say no to text size control widgets!).

Where I work we use a CMS (Plone) that automatically creates a
"Print" icon which uses Javascript to print the page (formatted
with the print stylesheet). On earlier sites we used the same icon
alongside the text "Printable version" to render a printable (i.e.
non-templated) version of the text that the user then had to choose
to print using browser controls.

In defence of "Printable version", I would say it acts as a "print
preview" and it can give some users the confidence that what they are
printing is the page content itself and not the associated page
template which can often be difficult to read. It also gives them the
opportunity to control the output of the page (by adjusting font size,
margins etc.). I often use the browser's "Print preview" to see
what I'm going to get anyway and then make any adjustments I need
to, so I introduce this extra step.

Also, to use a widget that invokes Javascript to print the page will
work for the majority of users with Javascript enabled but not for
those without Javascript (arguably very much the minority these
days).

I'd be interested to see the results of any user tests done in this
area.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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11 Mar 2009 - 10:30am
oliviacw
2008

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 3:19 AM, David Little <david at littled.net> wrote:

> In defence of "Printable version", I would say it acts as a "print preview"
> and it can give some users the confidence that what they are
> printing is the page content itself and not the associated page
> template which can often be difficult to read.
>

Following up on David's point, I think that a Printable Version/Print
Preview function could be very useful for a site which displays in a style
(background color, whatever) that is readable on screen but challenging in
print. I'm always skeptical about printing such pages, and being able to
confirm that it wasn't going to print out in white text on blackbackground
could make me feel more confident about printing.

For an example where this was partially implemented, check out
http://now.sprint.com/nowires/. [Warning, flash]. It's almost wholly
unreadable on-screen as it is [I have a lot of critiques of this page], but
if you look at the comparison chart (click on the "Save $49.99/mo") link, it
does offer a "Printable PDF" that's rendered somewhat more legibly in grey
on white.

- Olivia

--
Olivia C. Williamson
ocwilliamson at gmail.com
650-305-5950

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