Print My Blog Transparency Report – September 2019

6 minute read

This is the 6th monthly transparency report for Print My Blog WordPress plugin. This month the display of YouTube videos in printouts was significantly improved, the printout header content was made more customizable, I added fatal-error protection for PHP 5.2 sites, and I added some policies about free support.

What Happened in September 2019

Open CollectiveOpen Collective Stats

  • Hours:
    • 29.25 (+6) support
    • 28.75 (+3.5) copy writing
    • 71 (+4.5) development
    • 8 (+0) management
  • Expenses: $4957.59 (+$399.53)
  • Donations: $80 (+$0)

Plugin Plugin Stats

  • Downloads: 11,190 (+2151)
  • Active Installs: ~800 (+100)
  • Languages: 3 (unchanged)
  • Five Star Reviews: 16 (+0)
  • Releases: 40 (+5)

Overview of What’s New

The Details

Improvements to YouTube Videos in Printouts

From early on, I knew having videos in printouts from blogs was a bit of a problem. I have a few videos in my own blog. And when user alemarcanob suggested the same thing, this feature got bumped up on my priority list.

YouTube videos in a Print My Blog printout (using the option to split the content into three columns)

Like I outlined in the post dedicated to this topic, the problems were:

  1. There is no way to actually watch the video
  2. You can’t read the video’s title
  3. It looks buggy (like the site owner never thought someone would try to print the page, which is probably right!)
  4. That black area uses up a ton of ink, especially if you’re going to print an entire blog (which is the entire point of Print My Blog)

Since Print My Blog 1.12.0, YouTube videos look like this instead:

I solved the issues I mentioned because:

  1. It prints the URL of the video, so you know where to find it and watch it
  2. The full title is shown
  3. The video’s default screenshot is shown
  4. Because it’s an image in the printout, Print My Blog lets you resize it or remove it entirely (like all images)

I’m sure someone with more of an eye for design could make further improvements, so I’m eager to get feedback. But for now, I’m happy with the improvement.

And for the record: no, this improvement does not apply to non-YouTube videos. That’s because YouTube has a special, easy-to-use API for getting screenshots of videos. So similar improvements could be made for other ways videos are embedded, but I’ll wait for user feedback before investing time in that.

Again, you can read more about how Print My Blog shows YouTube videos in the post dedicated to it.

Printout Header Content Made More Customizable

I got an email from Maureen O’Shea asking how to remove her site’s title and tagline from printouts. She’s printing her blog a-page-at-a-time, and it didn’t make sense to repeat that header information.

I hadn’t thought of this use-case before, and it wasn’t possible. But I took an hour and a bit to make the printout header information more customizable. Now you have options to remove the following elements from the header:

Options for what header content to include

So if you uncheck all of them, nothing will appear at the top of a printout.

I realized that this also paves the way for adding more features for printing individual pages (eg I could add a “print this page” button to pages, or a filter from the print setup page to specify which pages to print.)

Fatal Error Protection for PHP 5.2

A while ago, user judith reported a fatal error that could have only happened if they were using PHP 5.2. I was confused by that because the plugin header says it requires PHP 5.4 or higher, and, to my knowledge, WordPress enforces that.

But then I realized: what if they’re also using an older version of WordPress, before it started to enforce the plugin’s minimum PHP version?

So I added a bit of error protection code, modeled after Event Espresso‘s, so that if someone using PHP 5.2 did manage to activate Print My Blog, they would instead just get a friendly message saying

We’re sorry, but Print My Blog requires PHP version 5.4 or greater in order to operate.

That will certainly make for a more pleasant user-experience for users of PHP 5.2.

New Support Policies

I added my first sticky topic to the plugin’s WordPress.org support forum.

Sometimes folks will report a bug, I’ll reply asking for some details in order to isolate it, and then they don’t reply, so the issue appears “unresolved.” That not only looks bad, but apparently it hurts the plugin’s rating on WordPress.org search results.

Print My Blog issues resolved on the WordPress.org page.

So, among other small suggestions, I added a policy there saying that if users don’t reply within a week, I will mark topics as resolved.

I think that’s fair to me and others; besides, if someone replies after a week, I’ll reopen the issue.

It also paves the way for the idea of premium support: email support for users wanting integrations with paid themes or plugins, especially tricky issues, or generally wanting special attention.

ThinkingThinking Out Loud

Images Could be Improved

I’d like to improve how images appear in printouts soon. None of the options are great.

When reading from your computer, your content takes up at most half of the screen width, so images are usually kept a reasonable size. On phones it’s the full width, but who cares it’s a tiny. In printouts, the content takes up the full page width, and so do the images! Which makes for really big images, eating up a lot of ink.

You can already resize images, but that’s a bit buggy, and looks a bit awkward because they’re left-aligned.

Some ideas to improve it are:

  • default to images that are only half the page width
  • center smaller images
  • or, maybe alternate between floating images to the left and right of the page content
  • if folks use the multi-column option (which naturally handles image much better), have images that are meant to be really big take up more than one column

If you have suggestions on how images could be made to look better in printouts, I’m all ears!

Lack of Reviews

While progress is still steady, getting 2%-5% new active installs per week, it’s been two months since the last 5-star review. I saw the YARPP plugin added a callout asking for reviews that’s been remarkably successful (it went from about 50 5-star reviews to over 200 in a month or two). But it was also a little controversial because the call-outs options are basically “sure, I’ll give you a review”, “I already did”, or “Maybe later” (in which case, the pop-up will appear again in a few months.) There was no “no thanks” option. Also, if all plugins added these call-outs (which they’re starting to do) the WordPress admin dashboard would become really cluttered (which it is!)

I had planned on doing something like that (probably just a call-out on the Print My Blog setup page or print page) to help the plugin’s star ratings this month, but ended up doing things that helped the plugin users instead 😇.

And let’s not talk about donations 😆.

How are you using Print My Blog?

Two users used my contact page this last month to report an issue, which is nice, but they also told me how they’re using Print My Blog:

  1. to print they blog as they go (not all at a time)
  2. to print posts for review by editors (rather than having them review it from within WordPress)

Neither one of those was how I originally intended the plugin would be used. There are other tools for printing individual posts, so it’s interesting they chose Print My Blog to do that (I’m guessing because it does a better job at remove unnecessary content; or maybe they just don’t know about those other plugins 😝), and this is the third time I’ve heard of someone printing their blog for manual review.

I appreciate hearing how folks use the plugin because it not only helps me have ideas on how to improve it, but it’s also really neat seeing it be useful to folks.

Anyways, if you have suggestions on how to improve the design of printouts, or just want to tell me how you’re using Print My Blog, feel free to comment here, or on GitHub, or use my contact page.

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