Monday, April 29, 2002[posted by jaed at 3:19 PM]
On respect for the "printable format" link
An awful lot of media websites, these days, include a link to something called "printable format" or "printer-friendly page", or simply "print". Those of us who prefer our eyeballs not to fall out while reading, and like a column width greater than 3 words, also know this as the "reader-friendly" link, because that's just what the so-called "printable" page is. It generally does not have winkenblinken ads in your peripheral vision, teensyfont syndrome, three-column layouts (columns work fine on paper, but not when you have to scroll), or others of the numerous sins against legibility so often promulgated by "web designers".
As such, they are damn useful. But it's possible to make them less so, and I'm seeing an alarming trend in this direction. Attention: if you're installing a reader-friendly option on your web site, there are certain things you should not do.
First of all, refrain from opening the reader-friendly format in a new window. If I want it in a new window, that functionality is just a Control-click away (right-click, for those of you who adhere to the Dark Side of the Force). Otherwise I don't want to have to dig around for the original window to close it. (Yes, I could just read the article and then close both windows, but I normally have ten or twenty browser windows open at once and waiting to be read, and if I weren't compulsive about tidiness I'd end up rereading three-day-old articles and wondering why they sound so familiar.) The New Republic is still doing this, although they have mercifully cleaned up their act regarding the following problem.
If you are going to indulge in the unholy practice mentioned in the previous paragraph, at least don't target all the pages to the same window. Doing this makes it impossible to open more than one page from your site at once, since the reader-friendly page for the second story will be targeted to the window I just opened for the first story, erasing it. Annoying. Especially when you don't realize what's happened, close all the redundant windows, and then find you've got one window instead of six. Wall Street Journal, this means you.
And for the love of Gopod, do not trigger a Print command automatically when the page is loaded! If I want to print the reader-friendly format, that functionality is a simple Command-P away (Control-P for the Darth Maul contingent). In particular, do not do this without some sort of warning to the user. (One site, whose name memory has mercifully blotted out, actually closed the window after I canceled the unwanted Print command. It took some fast work with the Stop button to keep the window open. Damn.)
And while I'm at it:
- Do not put your whole page in bold! (John and Antonio, I'm talking to you.)
- Do not succumb to Teensy Font Syndrome on your page! (More Blogger templates than I can count.)
- Do not limit your page to a tiny column width unless you know how to set minimums in CSS! (Your two inches may look just dandy in 8-point Arial, but trying to read a two-inch-wide column in 17-point Zapf Humanist is an exercise in frustration. Particularly when you put stuff in <blockquote> and make it a one-inch column. If the user makes the window wider, your page should get wider.)