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Usability of Printer Friendly Versions

I was recently reading an article on a web-site which provided a Printer Friendly version, which I was viewing.  In the article, there were several pictures (thumbnails of diagrams), with the caption below 'Click to view larger image.'

I sent feedback to the webmaster of the site telling them that on the Printer-Friendly page, the pictures should be the full size (larger) pictures, so that when I print them (which, I had assumed, is what the printer-friendly version is for), the diagrams are large enough to read.

This is the response I received:

"The purpose of our printer-friendly version is to give our readers a compact version of the article. Including the full-size images as part of the printer-friendly version would prevent this (and I'm sure we would receive plenty of complaints!). We want to give readers the choice to print
out the full-size images separately only if they need to."

My response to this is that the printer-friendly version is to give a *COMPLETE* version of the article (so that it could be printed!), not 'compact', and that I didn't think people would complain if this is done.  I don't want to have to print each individual diagram!

What is your opinion?

Would you want full size pictures to be displayed in the printer-friendly version of a document, or do you like the thumbnails?

NOTE: I understand that there is a place for thumbnails, but in the technical document that this was, the pictures are just diagrams, and the full size pictures would not be too large to place in the document.

ALSO: I don't intend to bash the site, I just wanted to get other opinions.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Printer friendly usually means without all the banner ads and pictures.  Friendly cause it doesn't take a ream of paper and a barrel of ink to print.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

I would agree with your reading - it's just a matter of completeness, but most sites don't go the extra mile.

Alternatively the could provide thumbnails in the body of the printed text and full size images as appendicies.

Walter Rumsby
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

I know this doesn't address the usability design issue, but if you're using IE there is a way to get them to print with the document.

Click Print from the File menu (not the toolbar icon), then select the Options tab from the Print dialog.  Under Options, check the 'print linked documents' box.  The usability of this, of course, depends on how many links there are on the page.

Nick Hebb
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

When pictures contribute to the content I would want full size pictures to be displayed in the printer-friendly version of a document. However if the pictures are there for decoration (the way Joel sometimes use them) I'd like them removed from the print- out. Considering that the pictures in the document you refer to were not just decoration they should have been printed full- size.

Rikard Linde
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

A frequent problem I have (using Netscape) is when a supposedly "printer-friendly" version is perfectly formatted, but opens in a popup with no menus.  The right click menu from netscape has no print option, meaning that the page may be printer friendly but it's just impossible to get it to the printer.

Of course it's usually possible to find the page address and open the page in a new window, but my point is that the average user should not need to know this.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

A couple of ideas to make printer friendly pages more user-friendly, that I have seen the work well. <br>
1. Open the Print menu option ( does this when you click on their printer friendly form the menu at the top of the document, (I think that it even works with Netscape 4.X, don't remember for certain, and don't have it on this box))<br>
2. Create a new open window using JavaScript, framed so that the user can see the page that they opened from. <br>
3. Put at the top of the page instructions on how to print, (Click the printer icon or press Control+P, etc) and tell the user how to close the window. <br>
4. Use a decent font on the text, ie don't set it to 8 point something<br>

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

It isn't (always) necessary to have a specific link to get to a printer-friendly version.
Most pages these days use CSS for at least some formatting.

The same CSS allows you to specify alternate style sheets for, amongst other things, a printer.
This way the browser will apply the alternative style sheet when the user sends the page to the printer and no other manual intervention is required.


Erik van Linstee
Thursday, July 4, 2002

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