W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > October 2007

Re: Printing Backgrounds

From: Brad Kemper <brkemper@comcast.net>
Date: Sat, 6 Oct 2007 15:21:53 -0700
Message-Id: <76970285-D40C-479F-BA6F-CF1DAA05A635@comcast.net>
To: www-style@w3.org

On Oct 6, 2007, at 3:24 AM, David Woolley wrote:

>
> Brad Kemper wrote:
>> If you have any sway over how browser publishers implement  
>> features, how about you just get them to print what is specified?  
>> I really hate that
>
> That violates some basic principles of CSS: that there is a balance  
> between author and consumer in the way that the content is  
> presented; and that documents should still work well on devices  
> that are physically incapable (including through age) of honouring  
> some, or all of the style sheet.

I agree that it should be between the the author and the consumer.  
The default settings in most browsers interfere with this  
relationship by inserting a mediation before it is needed, based on  
the assumption that the author doesn't know what he or she is doing.  
So even if the authors do know they're doing, they no longer have the  
control over the design that CSS is supposed to give them.

So as it is now, if I really wanted to have some small element (like  
a table header) print out with a solid background and white lettering  
in order to aid the readability and understandability of the page and  
make the consumption of information easier, I can't do it with CSS  
background properties, and I'm forced to use some god-awful hacks  
involving foreground images and non-semantic mark-up.

> If you want something that gives very limited (but, especially as  
> the result of legislation, growing) user control, use PDF.  It has  
> rather different design principles from HTML/CSS, and ones which  
> are much more based on the commercial want for absolute control of  
> the user experience.  Also consider SVG, which is a complete  
> presentational language.

Like it or leave it, huh? I thought the CSSWG was trying to be more  
open to listening to author feedback.

I never said I wanted to remove user control. I am all in favor of  
user control. That is what user style sheets are for, and what Print  
dialog settings are for. My objection is that the default settings  
hide the choice from the users, and start with a presumption of a  
need to constrain the author first.

It is quite possible that the user would like the backgrounds I  
designed to be on their paper, but they never have a chance to see  
them, because they mostly just hit control-P (or command-P on a Mac)  
and then "enter". If it comes out ugly, they are not going to go  
fishing around for the advanced setting to change the background,  
with the implicate understanding that the default was set to  
intentionally hobble the efforts of the designer. The result is that  
the designer/author has to design the printing CSS rules with the  
assumption that some of the elements of design that should be  
available will most likely not be, even when the device itself  
supports them.

>> they think they know better than me what vital design elements should
>
> Vital elements should never be in backgrounds, as they must still  
> be there when all styling (which includes backgrounds) content is  
> removed.  Yes, this does mean that you cannot absolutely rely on  
> non-verbal emotive content.

I mean vital to the design, not vital to the raw information. The  
reason I use CSS at all is so that I can have some control over the  
design, but when a machine arbitrarily removes some design elements  
and leaves others, based on a programmer's judgement that he or she  
is a better arbiter of design than I am, of the page I was employed  
to design, then yeah, I have a problem with that.

And you might as well remove the word "absolutely" from your  
argument. I can't rely on it AT ALL, even when the device supports my  
efforts at "non-verbal emotive content" (or visual aids to  
readability and ranking of levels of information). People changing  
their print settings to allow printing of backgrounds are the  
exception, not the rule. This is due to non-choice on their part, not  
choice, because they never make the decision: the software makes it  
for them. It is the wrong decision, to step between the design  
decision of the author and the decision of the user to print what  
they assume to be similar to what they see on the screen. If you want  
to cut out the ability of the designer to make design decisions, then  
why even have CSS?

>> print or not, and break the default printing of that design  
>> according to
>
> A good designer adapts to the medium.  Unfortunately, a lot of web  
> design (and other software development) is done by people who want  
> to force the medium to work their way.

I adapt. I add my comments to this topic in the hopes that I can make  
a positive contribution towards improving a situation that is  
unnecessarily broken.

The medium of print does allow for printing of backgrounds. I am not  
trying to "force" it to do anything it can't do. In fact, the  
software allows it too; it just makes it so that the user is required  
to do something extra in order get there. Really it is the software  
designers that is forcing the medium of print to work  THEIR way  
(their way being "no backgrounds allowed unless the user explicitly  
chooses them").

>> their own blanket presuppositions about my  designs. The average  
>> browser user usually has no idea that setting is even there. Why  
>> stop there? As
>
> Which means that the browser's default user style sheet  
> (conceptually these menu options on browsers are simply an easier  
> way for the user to modify elements of the user style sheet) needs  
> to reflect what is most likely that the user would have wanted if  
> they were aware of the possibilities.

Agreed. But most users are not designers, and it it the role of  
designers to design, and the user can trust the designer to do their  
job, or the user can make a decision to not trust the designer and  
turn off the backgrounds on their own volition if they wish. Most  
software developers are also not designers, yet apparently they feel  
that they are better judges of what the average user would want.

You could say that most users would not want non-white backgrounds in  
their magazines or brochures either, but their actions would prove  
you wrong.

> In particular, it needs to take account of the average, significant  
> site, web page designer, who never even thinks that a page may get  
> printed (I find

That is a gross oversimplification and statement of prejudice against  
the entire profession. If designers are creating pages that are  
horrible to print, then they will receive feedback from the users,  
and will be forced to change. Just as they did on the screen, when  
they used garish colors, blink tags, and a hundred different font  
sizes and faces together on the same page. The Market also weeded out  
designs in which all backgrounds and buttons were in NeXT-style gray  
bevels (it did this in OS GUIs too). It is good at that sort of  
thing. Trust it.

> printing pages often very frustrating, and have to resort to print  
> selection to even stand some chance of getting them on the paper).

I don't know what sites you visit, but I rarely have that problem. In  
fact, I believe my software automatically shrinks the width to fit on  
the paper, which is a reasonable think to do in that situation.  
Anyway, I never even have a chance to try to use backgrounds  
responsibly, because the software has already presumed me guilty,  
without any opportunity to prove my innocence.

> The suggestion of changing the behaviour when print media is  
> specified was based on the idea that it indicates the rare case of  
> a designer that does think about printing (although it could just  
> be a corporate standard to include the @media section, which does  
> not influence the designers).

I understand the rationale, although I resent the implication that  
designers with thoughtful consideration of the consequences of their  
choices are rare. The ones that are using CSS instead of nearly  
infinitely nested tables are mostly going to be able to set a print  
media style sheet that does not drain the ink from their audience's  
printers. The others are just going to slice up PhotoShop images for  
everything anyway, and end up with foreground images in table cells,  
because that is the PhotoShop default. So the decision to suppress  
backgrounds doesn't effect them anyway.

At least, if you are going to follow that rationale, do it for those  
media="all" and media="print", and only punish those who did not  
include any media attribute at all. If I specified "all", it is  
because I believe the design rules would be appropriate for both  
screen and print (I have less hope that it would work well for  
handheld or some of the others, given the current state of things,  
but that is really a separate discussion).

>> long as they are deciding to chop out my background images in a  
>> way that neither the designer or end user would appreciate, they  
>> might as well
>
> Users will often appreciate the image being chopped out, as it  
> wastes ink or toner and, especially when printing to monochrome,  
> may make it difficult to read the content.  I have been aware of  
> the options for a very long time, and I have rarely, if ever,  
> wanted the background printed.

Then you should be allowed to turn them off by choosing that option  
or by editing your user style sheet. Perhaps you would also want to  
set all of your text to print out in 12pt Courier, if you are so sure  
your design choice is going to be better or more thoughtful that that  
of the page designer. That is your choice as a user, and I support  
your ability to make that individual choice. Would you want your  
browser to make that same choice for everyone? The Web is a Wide  
World of different types of pages, and some people might expect their  
pictures to print.

>> chop out my foreground images yoo, and then why not my border and  
>> font
>
> Web pages should tolerate loss of foreground images as well,  
> because people do use text only browser and search engine  
> abstracts, and may even suppress images for bandwidth reasons,  
> particularly on mobile devices.  And, of course, the page may be  
> accessed by someone who cannot perceive images, or is in a  
> situation where it is unsafe to look at them.

I've got no argument with that. I am merely arguing for a more  
reasonable default setting for a medium (print) that does allow for  
it, if the pictures and/or backgrounds are available.

>
>
> -- 
> David Woolley
> Emails are not formal business letters, whatever businesses may want.
> RFC1855 says there should be an address here, but, in a world of spam,
> that is no longer good advice, as archive address hiding may not work.
>
Received on Saturday, 6 October 2007 22:22:07 GMT

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