Monday, August 30, 2010

Perplexing Printer Puzzle

Recently I was learning to use a new computer printer from a leading manufacturer. It came through a Mail order service, on a web site.

Having been using printers as part of my job, still, I had not gone into the nitty-gritty of it-installation, ink cartridges etc. However, since it was a DIY manual, I decided to face up to the task.

The manual was well structured and the topics were easy to find, in logical sequence. I moved along smoothly through installing the printer software, making the settings, connecting printer and computer, even the totally unfamiliar task of loading the ink cartridges. Ah, now to print! But we needed to load the paper. Where was it? Of course, in the paper tray.

Unsuspectingly, I put the sheet of paper in the protruding tray in the front. No need of the manual for this. I switched on the power, opened a document and gave the print command.

Nada. Nothing.

I checked the manual. A picture was given of the paper tray, how to pull it out, etc. It was a close-up, and unfortunately, it did not have a reference. That is, one could not make out on which part of the printer this tray was located. I tried hard to locate any part that resembled that in the figure. The only protruding part (a paper tray should protrude, right?) was in the front, but it did not have any of the tabs mentioned in the manual and the figure. I pressed and pulled at various other parts in the hope that the tray would spring open.

Mortified that my tech savvy, super fast installation had been botched just at the finishing line by a most plain task, I stalled, perplexed. A good thirty minutes must have gone on it.

I sat before the printer, eyeing it with growing exasperation. My plight reminded me of the proverbial simian with the coconut. More than that, it hurt when one's pride in being tech-savvy was reduced to rubble.

Who would have guessed that the paper tray would be covered and be at the back of the printer? Somehow this idea clicked in my brain and I tried pulling a latch at the back of the printer. Lo! There was the paper tray. Having used only Laser jets till now, and their paper trays being opened from the front, I was conditioned to look for the tray in the front.

It was a bit frustrating that the creators of the manual did not try to think from a possible perspective that some users would have. They just cannot assume that all users will know the location of the tray. What is the point in showing a close up of the paper tray, without showing where it is located? All parts are straight lines and look alike to the first time user.

Showing a picture of the printer and referencing each part with a letter can avoid this unsavory situation. It should be easy to distinguish the front, back and the sides-left and right.

That will save time and make for a great user-friendly manual that even Grandmas can use!
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