Putting on our user-experience hats for a moment:
Why is printer-friendly functionality missing on so many weblogs, wikis, discussion boards and other forms of social and collaborative media?
The lack of this functionality is driving us batty. Without printer-friendly pages, printouts make inefficient use of paper. But then, we’ve known this for a long-time in the web design world.
Weblogs are particularly infuriating. For all the talk about how weblog posts are typically short, there’s a ton of prolific and excellent, long-form writers out in the blogosphere. However, printing out their long posts (and the comments too) is a frustrating task.
As well, many weblogs are horribly designed — crappy backgrounds, bizarre color combinations, exceedingly long blog-rolls and marginalia (okay, we’re guilty of that one). We love Jeff Jarvis’ Buzzmachine blog, but it’s a double hit on this issue — many of his posts are long, and his teeny, purple, serif text is no picnic to read on a screen.
The blame does not entirely rest on the sholders of the users. Developers of weblogs, wikis and forum technologies have created this problem. For example, the out-of-the-box templates on Blogger and TypePad, two of the most successful weblog platforms, do not have printer-friendly pages.
Yes, many of the software packages for collaborative media have relatively easy-to-implement printer-friendly solutions. But that requires the user to modify templates, which they rarely do. It also requires an awareness on the part of the creator that printer-friendly pages are a necessary component to good web site design.
So let’s help our readers save paper on print-outs and bring standard web page printer-friendly functionality to collaborative media.
Tip to bloggers: Show the printer-friendly button on index, comment and permalink pages. Do not show the printer-friendly button on just permalink pages. This hides the functionality.