Smart phones, tablet computers, and mobile web-connected devices are great for traveling, but nothing is more reliable than a piece of paper in your hand while on a trip. Since your tourism website is full of important itinerary and booking information, your customers will likely want to print out pages to bring on their trip. It could be a reservation confirmation, directions to your location, or a bulleted list of your tours or hotel services.
However for most travel websites, simply clicking a web browser’s print button produces messy and unprofessional looking results. Linking to printer friendly versions of those travel pages is an essential way to build trust in your tourism business and get more bookings.
Why Online Trip Planners Want to Print
There are so many good reasons for printing a page on your travel booking website. Printouts are an important part of every trip itinerary and can be used for:
- Directions from a common location (e.g. airport, train station, nearest highway) to your location
- A map of the area highlighting your location and key cross-streets and popular attractions
- Descriptions of your tour offerings to decide and book later or as reference material while on tour
- A list of services available at a hotel, place to stay, or tourist attraction as a general reminder
- The booking confirmation page, to confirm dates, prices, and reservation terms
- Contact information so your phone, email, website URL, fax, mobile, and full mailing address are handy
- Travel guidebook purposes, such as to list your opening hours and dates, admission prices, and available attractions and events
How Travel Web Pages Are Not Made For Printing
Unfortunately, web pages are not as pretty as travel guidebooks since clicking the Print button in a web browser includes most everything. That means headers and footers, flashy pictures, sidebars, navigation buttons and menus, advertisements and promotional offer boxes, and depending upon browser and settings, odd-looking background colors and images.
What you see is NOT what you get, as is evident from the print preview of a tour itinerary page gone awry (see right).
When using dynamic page content, it may exclude hidden text – the kind of travel content that only appears when the user expands a section or navigates (like with tab buttons) within subsections. There are many other types of dynamic web content that performs wonderfully on-screen but leads to unpredictable results when printing.
When you create a printer friendly version you eliminate the website structure and page elements that appear throughout your site. The primary focus is on the actual travel content (about what you sell). This offers your visitors a more professional looking travel document while at the same time saves ink and paper (a green and money saving practice your customers will appreciate).
The most common side effect I’ve found when printing my own trip details is how the sidebar gets in the way. For example a tour itinerary printout will not expand to use the full width (100%) of the printed page if the sidebar is visible. Here is an example to remind you of the wasted space (page after page) that results after printing:
Empowering your visitors to print important information about your travel products builds trust in your travel business. Your customers will remember how easy it was to collect trip booking details to add to their full itinerary. By including the most important information on one or two sheets of paper (or one double-sided page), travelers will book with confidence.
Printer Friendly Pages Are Good For Copying Too
The other huge advantage of a printer friendly page is the ease of copying text for later use. While researching an upcoming trip, visitors to your website should be encouraged to capture any information they desire about your travel products and services. The text must be free of complex formatting because your travel content can and will get pasted almost anywhere.
Content heavy travel websites are often mix of formatted text spanning multiple pages, interspersed with photos, graphics, navigation and offers. This makes it difficult and frustrating to copy and paste the desired text in one go. What happens often is that visitors will try to copy a block of travel text and paste it into Microsoft Word. Since pasting HTML content into a rich-text application brings along font sizes, embedded graphics, layout, and styles, the result looks sloppy outside of your website.
A printer friendly page typically uses one font and one or two font sizes, with text in dark colors and a few images as necessary. Content that spans multiple pages will all be on one long (scrolling) page, so whatever text the visitors wants to copy can be done with one click and drag movement of their mouse. Regardless of whether this information is pasted to a desktop application or one of the many online trip planning tools, it will be just as readable and printable.
Steps to Create a Printer Friendly Travel Website Page
You have two main options for creating printer friendly web pages for your travel website. The first is to define a CSS style sheet for your website which is flagged for use when rendering any page for printing. The second is to select the most important pages on your site and manually create an HTML or PDF version containing all the travel content reformatted for printing.
Whichever option you use, be sure to advertise the fact that you have a printer friendly version. This can take the form of a text link or graphic button with a picture of a printer. Visitors should notice that you have this feature even if they don’t intend to use it right away. Travel websites that are seen as trustworthy tend to offer advanced features such as printer friendly page views, so meeting their expectation is key to getting more bookings.
Configure the printer friendly page to open in a new browser window. Since it contains no site navigation, the user can close the window after copying or printing to return to the previous page and continue planning their trip. For maximum effect, add a “Print” or “Printer Friendly” link or button to both the top and bottom of the page. Doing so will make it easy for your visitors to print or copy their selected tour itinerary or hotel listing with minimal effort.
Option 1 – Printer Friendly CSS Style Sheet for Tourism Websites
To better understand how browsers use CSS to render content for display versus printer, consult these helpful external resources. By creating a clean and easy to read style sheet for rendering any page of travel content on your site, your visitors will gain trust in your tourism website to deliver what you promise.
Option 2 – Printable Travel Guidebook Pages
For those travel websites with complex, dynamic, and interactive content, building print friendly pages by hand may be your best option. It may be less work than attempting to design the perfect print-only style sheet (which may not even exist).
This is also a good option for sites that are optimized for booking conversion and not travel information gathering. The printer friendly version strips out such common elements as the “Book Now” button, a “Chat Live” box, and the “Other Tours You May Like” listings for example.
Don’t Forget to Test Printing
It is critical to test your printer friendly pages, whether you utilize a one-size-fits-all style sheet or manually create selected printer friendly pages. In most cases it is possible to use the “Print Preview” mode in each browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox) to view the output without actually sending the page to your printer.
During testing, follow this checklist to confirm all your travel printouts look professional:
- Reset print setup and settings to the defaults before starting testing
- Print to the two worldwide standard paper sizes – 8.5″x11″ and A4
- Verify print margins are sufficient so nothing is not cut off along the edges of the paper
- Try print to PDF using Adobe tools or the popular PDF995 downloadable tool as well
- Print in both black & white and color to ensure both are easy to read
- Change printer settings such as Portrait and Landscape and test out the results
- Copy and paste text and text + images to various applications such as Word, EverNote, TripIt, NileGuide, and Yahoo! Trip Planner to make sure your clean (printer friendly) formatting is retained on the clipboard
Printer Friendly SEO
Search engines such as Google and Bing want to index all of your web pages, and printer friendly must be handled properly to avoid the duplicate content issue. What is it? Sites are penalized for publishing the same content (or mostly the same) multiple times. Some unscrupulous sites use this SEO tactic (with little success) as a way to game the system.
The key lesson is to never try tricks to improve your search ranking since your online reputation is at stake. Therefore it is critical that you handle this issue properly by tagging the printer friendly pages hosted on your tourism website.
For printer friendly pages you can add a canonical tag in the head of the page. This HTML element references the main or source page that is the one to be indexed. You are telling the search engine about content duplication up front. Here is a clear explanation of how this works to inform Google and avoid negative effects.
In addition (or alternatively depending on your exact site configuration) you can add the “no-index” attribute to the anchor element that links from the display page to the printer friendly page. This tells the search engine crawlers to not index the linked to URL. Therefore printer friendly pages will not get flagged as duplicate content and will not turn up in search results.
Using “no-index” on printer friendly travel pages can be a smart practice since these pages are missing your essential site headers and navigation. Visitors who accidentally stumble upon them while searching for vacation ideas will be confused and unable to reach your main website to learn more.
Here is a more detailed explanation of how to use both canonical and no-index properly to your benefit:
It should require no convincing on my part that offering printer friendly pages is a win-win to prove that your travel products and services are trustworthy and get more bookings. When visitors discover your tourism website while planning a business or personal trip, they will be able to take a copy (print or electronic) of your online brochure in the manner and format they choose.
Getting visitors to book travel is key, so give them every option to print, save, and capture your content with as few clicks and with as little frustration (and wasted paper) as possible. By showing your website visitors that you take their travel planning effort seriously, you will naturally get more bookings (and new customers). And when your customers bring along itinerary printouts and have a satisfying trip, they are more likely to share their positive total experience when they return.