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How Horizontal Web Designs Cause Problems with Scrolling and Printing

written by: Ariala•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 3/26/2010

Web designers are taught to create websites horizontally, but many people out there enjoy vertical sites because they are easier to print. Find out how to get the best of both worlds and still maintain the integrity of good web design.

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    Scrolling and Printing Problems

    Most of us who have had web design training know that websites need to be created in a horizontal manner, rather than a vertical one. It is not recommended that visitors to your website scroll more than one page.

    Despite this design rule, most non-web designers often complain that they cannot print a web page without the content running off the page on the right margin. Unless they select "landscape" on their print cue for page orientation, they will have words missing on their final printed documents. Another trick is the old "copy" and "paste" into a table editor or into Word, but this requires more time and inconvenience to visitors.

    One could argue that websites are for visual navigation and not for hardcopy printing, but the fact remains that visitors to your website may want to print something rather than bookmark the page for later viewing. The question then becomes, should you design a website for printing or just for viewing? I would suggest that you try to do it for both. Sure, you can add a feature that allows them to go to another window so they can print the page without the images, but for most web designers, that's a pain. It's like creating two websites in one. The best answer is to not let your content flow off the screen on the right, nor the bottom.

    Despite the fact that I've designed quite a few websites, I admit that when I visit a site, I, personally prefer a vertical "feel" on a horizontal design. This is not a contradiction. In fact, it's all about making your visitors feel they are getting the best of both worlds. They don't have to scroll too far right or too far down, but they can also read the text and print it, too, without losing words from wide margins.

    The name of this game is flexibility. Web designers who aren't rigid about the rules, but rather think creatively at solving their visitors' problems, whether perceived or subliminal, will be more successful in the long run at getting visitors to return again and again.