How Users Print Pages On The Web

I remember about a year ago I was desperately searching for data on how people printed pages on the web. The reason I was curious, is because I noticed flash ads would often mess up pages printed straight from the browser, often not printing the content of the pages. This is a bad user experience which could cause visitors to start using a competitor’s site instead.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any studies. I thought with the millions of sites that have “printer friendly pages” that someone would have published the results. I decided to do the research myself and slip it into a survey during some pre-redesign research for a top 150 website. I surveyed over 2,000 users, asking them how they printed pages on the web. The results may surprise you.

Here are the results:
When printing articles or pages on the Web:

  • 19% of users use File > Print in their browser
  • 63.1% of users use the printer-friendly links on the page
  • 2.5% of users use the Control-P command on their keyboard
  • 12.3% of users copy and paste the text into Word
  • 3.1% of users copy and paste the text into an email or other application

A couple notes about the survey participants. The site this was conducted on would be considered a sampling of the average Internet user. A site catering to web-savvy users would have different results. The site has also long had “printer-friendly” links, so long-time users would be more likely to use them. To remove some of the long-term user bias, here are the same results but filtered by only users who have used the site for less than 3 months (over 375 users).

Here are the results for newer users:
When printing articles or pages on the Web:

  • 25.3% of users use File > Print in their browser
  • 49% of users use the printer-friendly links on the page
  • 3.1% of users use the Control-P command on their keyboard
  • 17.5% of users copy and paste the text into Word
  • 5% of users copy and paste the text into an email or other application

I realize a survey isn’t the most accurate method to get at this data, but this data is difficult to collect any other way because it is impossible to track anything other then the printer-friendly pages of a site without conducting an expensive in-person behavioral study (preferably on the users own computer).

If you know of any other research on this topic, please share it in the comments.

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