Remember when everyone was predicting the paperless office would become the way of the future? Well, it never quite happened – because as much as we love to find and consume information via the web, printing that information out, at least some of the time, is still fairly firmly entrenched habit.
The funny thing is, as web pages become more multifaceted and engaging thanks to digital media and images and online ads, they become harder for people to read when printed out on good old A4.
Whether you think printing pages from the web is silly or not, you can almost guarantee some segment of your readership is going to find themselves compelled to print something from your site at least once. Which is why making your web pages printer-friendly is still an important part of the web experience you offer your audience.
Important Print-Friendly Elements
Go Black and White
Even if your brand colours are a crucial part of your web experience, your printer-friendly page should definitely consist of plain black text on a white background, since the majority of people use black and white printers.
Reasonably Sized Serif Font
When moving to print, serif fonts are far easier to read. You should also ensure your font size is sufficient for print – 11 or 12 point type is around standard.
Links may not be clickable on a printed page, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still important to alert readers to their presence. Making it obvious a word or phrase is a link by underlining it points the reader to the fact that more information is available should they revisit the original web source.
Remove Unnecessary Images
If someone does print a web page they don’t want to waste screeds of paper and ink printing out a bunch of images. You might limit those images printed to only the featured images in blog posts, or to your logo, or you might get rid of images altogether. You should definitely remove any animated images or flash.
Including your top or side navigation is essentially a waste of ink on a printed page, and removing it will make the formatting a lot clearer. The same can be said of banner and side bar advertisements – although whether or not you remove these will depend on your advertising policies and the relationship you have with your advertisers. Being ad-free may make your information much easier to read on a printed page, but from a commercial perspective, consider whether removing ads entirely from printed pages is going to upset your bread and butter.
Include a Byline and URL
Including these on printer-friendly versions of your pages will make it a great deal easier for readers to find you again if they print something out from your site, and then want to revisit you for more information.
Five Great Print-Friendly Plugins
Print Friendly and PDF Button
The Print Friendly and PDF Button plugin automatically creates printer friendly and PDF versions of your pages without the hassle of having to create a print CSS file, no coding or programming required. This plugin has a 4.3/5 star user rating, and has been downloaded almost 287,000 times.
WP-Print is designed to display a printable version of your WordPress blog or website’s post or page. This plugin has a 4.4/5 star user rating, and has been downloaded more than 351,000 times.
Genesis Printstyle Plus
Genesis Printstyle Plus is a small and lightweight plugin which adds a printer-reader stylesheet file, removing any unnecessary elements such as navigation bars, footers and widgets, This plugin has a 4.7/5 star user rating, and has been downloaded more than 8000 times.
The PrintWhatYouLike plugin places a button on blog posts and pages to generate printer friendly versions of that content. One of the great things about this plugin is that it allows readers to customise how the page is printed, or save the page as a PDF. PrintWhatYouLike has a 3.6/5 star user rating and has been downloaded more than 10,000 times.
Print Me! adds a print button on every post and page, which translates content into print-friendly mode allowing for readers to print it without wasting ink and paper. This plugin has a 3.9/5 star rating and has been downloaded almost 10,000 times.