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Patterns for Personal Web Sites

Offline Readability

Even though we expect Web pages to be read by visitors connected to the Internet, this is not always the case. Sometimes pages are forwarded as email, or printed for later reading. Assuming that all pages are read online can lead Web site designers to overlook fundamental information that should be present in a printed version of a page.

For example, links to other pages can be a problem. Online, a reader need only follow a link to see its destination. With a printed copy, however, that destination is lost. (Where does this link lead to?)

Even worse, if the page doesn't contain its own URL, then someone with only a printed copy must resort to searching the Web for the original. The context of where the page is and which pages it links to is lost.

Therefore, create pages that not only are easy to read offline, but have just as much information as the online version.


This pattern is rather slippery in its application. Exactly when should link URLs be given explicitly? There's no hard and fast rule. A research paper should always explicitly list the URLs of its links, while doing so for an informal journal entry would look incongruous. One must weigh the intended audience and use of the page, and decide accordingly.

The problem of offline readability is to some extent mitigated by cascading style sheets. However, page creators should not assume that every visitor's browser is CSS-capable.

Offline readability does not mean adding a second, formatted-for-printing version of each page.

Last updated 8 July 2003
All contents ©2002-2003 Mark L. Irons