[Whatwg] Request for HTML-only print link

Sander Tekelenburg st at isoc.nl
Sat Jul 28 15:59:15 PDT 2007

At 23:02 +0200 UTC, on 2007-07-28, Sander wrote:

> Sander Tekelenburg schreef:
>> Your main argument for a print links seemed to be that some people might not
>> know where to find their UA's print command (hard to believe -- even IE by
>> default presents a shiny print button always).
> Well, Opera doesn't show a print button for instance.

That only tells you that Opera is aimed at users who wouldn't appreciate an
explicit print button. For users who "need" such  a button *and* cannot
figure out how to add that to Opera, Opera may not be the best choice of UA.
Not a problem. People have other UAs to choose from.

Equally so, for users who have no print needs, or for whom file->print, or
the keyboard equivalent, is already second nature, having valuable screen
space wasted on a print button would not be useful.

All Opera's lack of by default showing a print button tells us is that
different users have different neeeds/preferences. It confirms that there is
no single "right" UI or document presentation for all users.

>>  Giving them a "print link"
>> doesn't help them, because now they still don't know where their UA's print
>> command is.
> That's not the point as it is not up to the author of a website to educate
>their visitors about their browser.

Exactly ;) It's up to users to learn to use their tools. (And good tools are
as much self-explanatory as possible. At the very least it is the user's
responsibility to pick the tool that is easiest to (learn to) use.)


>>  So if you'd really want to help those people, you would not
>> provide a print link. You'd let them figure out how to print, or you could
>> add a help page that explains how to print a web page (making sure that
>> you're clear about which specific browsing environment you''re talking
> A lot of site owners just don't want to do that as it turns the focus on
>the browser instead of their.

Well, tough :) Users matter more than authors. (See
So when what authors want to do harms users, it is not a good idea to have
HTML cater for those authors.

> Providing a print link on the spot where you
>refer to printing doesn't force the visitor to think (which seems to be the
>credo in usability land).

Actually, it does force users to think because they now have to determine the
difference between that particular print link and their UA's built-in print

Look at <http://profor.nu/> for example. Activating the UA's built-in print
function and activating the print link give different results (at least in
Firefox under Mac OS x 10.4.9, printing to PDF). (Yes, I built that
site and yes I'm well aware of all that's wrong with it -- blame me for not
managing to convince the customer.)

>>> Compare it to the sentence "You can find our address on the contact page".
> You're right. It was indeed a quick example. What I meant to say was that
>providing a link that offers what you're talking about is better than 'just'
>talking about it.

Understood. I'm not sure I see how the comparison makes sense though. Are you
thinking of something like "We suggest you print this purchase confirmation"?
Because I'd disagree. You can compare that with "we suggest you listen to <a
href=filename.mp3>this exerpt of John Doe's speech</a>." Note that it makes
no sense to mark that up as "we suggest you <a href=filename.mp3>listen<a> to
this exerpt of John Doe's speech." Similarly ""We suggest you <a
href=print>print</a> this purchase confirmation" wouldn't make sense.
(Something like this could make sense however: "We suggest you print <a
href=URL>this purchase confirmation</a>", if it points to a document that
contains the purchase confirmation.)

[... differences between browsing environments]

>> So what? If every browsing environment would work and present the same,
>> there'd be no need for more than one browsing environment. [...]
> What I meant was that people are not always on the same environment.

Understod, but web publishers simply aren't in the position to help users
with that. Any attempt at that can only result in creating more problems. A
good example is suggesting font-size to be 90%, because it helps some users
who [A] use IE with its too large default font-size and [B] haven't bothered
to learn how to change that default font-size to something that serves their
needs.  All the web publisher will achieve is make things harder for every
other user. As web publishers our first responsibility is to know where our
domain starts and where it ends.

Sander Tekelenburg
The Web Repair Initiative: <http://webrepair.org/>

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