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How to Design a Printable Website

Is your website printable? While the practice of printing websites has diminished in recent years, it is still relevant. Design and create a website so that it can be printed easily, or add a printer-friendly version of your site to provide your users with a better experience. This will enable them to print the information they seek without design elements, images and advertisements that they do not want.

What Makes a Website Printable?

Every Web browser has a print option, and every printer will process the information sent by the browser. However, the printed version of most normal websites will not be user-friendly. The font may not be legible, or the text may be cut off or off-center. It is unlikely that the result will be useful — unless there is a printer-specific version of the website available. The following attributes should be considered when a printable website is being created:

  • Black and white colors. Every printer-friendly page should only have black and white. If it’s designed to be printed, it should be bland. Most websites do not need to print in color, as this consumes color ink cartridges rapidly. Instead, only use black and white on pages meant to be printed.
  • Use small, serif font. Sans-serif fonts are typically used online, as they are easier to read on screens. However, serif fonts are considered easier to read on paper. Do your readers a favor and switch the font to a serif type. Additionally, change the size of the font to 12-pt text or higher.
  • Remove most images and advertisements. The majority of images used on a website are unnecessary. This includes advertisements and images added simply for color purposes. As you design printer-friendly versions of each page, consider whether or not the image is required. Advertisements should be entirely removed as they will consume extra ink.
  • Eliminate scripting and underline links. If your website uses JavaScript, Flash or animated images — remove them. They will provide no value to a printed version of your page and can cause problems during the printing process. Additionally, confirm that the links are underlined so users can identify them when they are reading the print version.
  • Add extras. Your printed website will lack some information you wouldn’t normally consider including. Add a byline at the end of your article to indicate who wrote it, along with the date it was written. Include the original URL to the web-version of the article for referencing purposes. Lastly, include a copyright notification that indicates that this information is your intellectual property.

How Do I Implement These Changes?

The creation of printable pages will require some advanced scripting knowledge. However, you may not require skill with scripting, depending on how your website was designed. The exact steps you need to follow to create a printable version of your website will depend on how it was created.

  • Did you hire a designer? Ask your website designer if he or she can create a printer-friendly version of your website. Website designers each have their preferred method of designing printable pages. Some believe code should be developed to only allow text to print, while other designers believe a new printer-friendly version of the site should be developed. Either method is acceptable and will accomplish the same goal.
  • Did you do it yourself? If you designed your own website, you will likely have the knowledge required to design a printer-friendly version. You can use the CSS media types to use a different style sheet when printing. This means you need to design a new CSS document that makes the above changes whenever the print command is issued. If this sounds like a foreign language to you, then you may need to hire a designer.
  • Did you use a program to design it? Most pre-packaged website-design programs automatically create a printable version of your website. Consult the company that created the program to see if it offers this feature.

Having a Printable Website Matters

It’s natural to think that with the popularity of tablets and smartphones few people would need to print information; however, there are times when people do. It is also not always acceptable to use a mobile device. Design a printable website to help please your readers in all situations.

About the Author: Simon Bass is a contributing writer and website designer. He has helped several clients design printable websites over the years.

Meet Evan Varsamis


Evan Varsamis is driven by his passion for technology, innovation and vision of an ever improving and informative web. The company he founded, Cloudie Co. is a testament of that. Evan is constantly seeking to invest in new startup projects that support his vision.