Going to print

Eric Meyer’s latest article on how he improved on Alistapart’s print styles, is an excellent read for those interested in the technical aspects of printable web pages.
When designing our organisation’s online newsletter, I decided to create a print stylesheet but kept it simple – display:none for the logo, nav bar, and mastheads. The only images I retained for print were one-off photographs included within each article. However, little did I know that some colleagues wanted to print the newsletter to keep as records, and were surprised to find that it did not look like the screen version at all. In the end I had to reinstate some elements so it looked more like the screen version. (I took it as flattery, that they liked my design! 🙂
For the screen stylesheet, I also made text resizeable – which I thought was a very useful feature since (and I do lament repeatedly), we aren’t allowed to install Firefox or any other browser on our systems, and our version of Internet Explorer (6) is unable to resize text if you use fixed font sizes.
However, once again I received a complaint – this time, from an editorial team-mate who had unknowingly reset his browser to magnify text. At first, the rest of us were baffled by his emails and assured him that the web pages looked fine to us, on our own computers. Then it occurred to me that his browser settings were involved. He confirmed it, but added that to avoid this problem in future, I should fix all font sizes!
I told him that we had other colleagues who were visually impaired and it would not be fair if we prevented them from resizing text in their browser, so they could read our newsletter properly. Fortunately, that argument held.
All in all, it was an interesting lesson in managing expectations. Apart from those initial teething problems, the newsletter website loads fast, is easy to click through, and doesn’t waste employees’ time with clunky navigation. It’s also easy to change the look (for instance, we began early in the year with a ‘blue’ theme, and during summer I switched to ‘red-hot’) by simply updating one CSS file. I just wish more local web design companies took stylesheets and web standards more seriously.