Ctrl-P to print…

Most people don’t think about how their websites or blogs print out. Probably because most people don’t print things anymore. But for me, if I’m starting on a long article, I’ll try and print it so that it doesn’t hurt my eyes.

When I Google related searches, I see people posting thoughts along the lines of:

“Why bother? Nobody prints things anymore.”
Those people are assholes inconsiderate, or ignorant, or both.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the computer over the course of my adult life. Looking at a computer screen, which emits blue light which is harmful to the retina.

I get eyestrain after looking at the screen for a few minutes/hours (depending on the day and how much off-screen time I’ve had to recuperate). So, in the interest of preserving my vision for future decades, I like to print long-ish articles.

There used to be an easy way to print things. Ctrl+P. Or, if you’re on a Mac, CMD+P. It still works, and people still print things.

But websites have gotten uglier over the years. Marketers have taught us that we have to use the sidebar to put an email signup form, as well as “tag clouds”, adverts and all other sorts of nonsense.

For one, it really degrades the readability of a site. But also, it makes web pages really, really hard to print out, if you’re trying to conserve paper and don’t want a lot of nonsense that you’ll just have to throw away.

Some people (developers) use browser tools to remove things they don’t want to see on an ad-hoc basis and print that. I’ve edited websites from 20 pages down to about 3 or 4. It’s that bad.

And this is really an issue of accessibility more than anything. Here’s a good definition from my friends Google and Wikipedia. They seem to know everything.

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).

This accessibility problem opportunity is also very easy to fix (usually). The solution? Print media stylesheets, à la the ones you can see here: https://github.com/nmarley/stylish-stylesheets

In summary, my real advice to anyone with a website would be:

Make it so that when a person visits your site and types “Ctrl+P”, they get a nicely-formatted version of your page/site that’s perfect for printing. That’s it. That’s the goal with all of my sites, and hopefully they’re all at least close to it.

Tangent: Sites should be “responsive”, which is an techie term. It means that when someone visits your site on a mobile phone, it should still: 1) look reasonably good and 2) be readable without having to zoom in. Not necessarily the same as the desktop version, but it should satisfy those two criteria. Also, Google thinks so too.

Simple Blogging Tips

Veerle's Blog at Starbucks
Veerle’s Blog at Starbucks

I decided to do an «arbitrary number»-part series on basic steps people can take to improve their basic/new blogs.

  1. Use WordPress. It really is the shit.
  2. If using blogger, migrate to wordpress.com. I really recommend a self-hosted blog using the software from wordpress.org, but that’s not for everyone.

    If you’re using WordPress, you’ll get an About page, a “Hello World” post and a fake initial comment.

  3. Modify the “About” page 1st thing.
  4. The first thing people do when visiting a new blog is check out the “about” page. When I visit your blog, before reading very far, I want to know who you are. How are you qualified to write to me? (e.g. if you’re an MD writing about medical stuff, I know that you know your shit, vs. a 1st year biology major, etc…). You don’t have to have important-sounding credentials… just tell the reader a bit about who you are.

  5. Now delete the fake comment.
  6. Modify the Hello World post and the title.
  7. This will be the intro post for your blog. If you’re not ready to put up the first post, at least change the text to “this is my new blog and I will fill this out later. Oh, and if you want to know more about me then read my about page, which I have definitely filled out.”

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