zaterdag 16 april 2016

The ‘manual feed’ icon on printers: less than helpful

Only seldom I need to use the manual feed on printers. The interval is generally long enough that I have totally forgotten how I need to insert the paper in order to get the image printed on the correct side of the paper. When using the manual feed, it is almost always crucial to know what side will be printed on. In an attempt to clarify this to users, manufacturers provide an icon on the manual feed tray:

Manual feed icon

The problem with this icon is that it is less than helpful. What does it mean? It shows a page with apparently a blank and printed side. This can either mean:

  1. The printer will print on the side shown as having print in the icon, in this case the bottom side.
  2. If you insert a page, make sure the blank side, which will be printed on, is pointing upwards.

Both interpretations make sense and no sense at the same time. The first interpretation fails because it does not match with reality: the underside of the real piece of paper will generally not have anything printed on it at the moment it is inserted in the tray. In the very common case of using the manual feed to print on the other side of an already printed page, reality is opposite from what the icon depicts. The second interpretation fails in the cases where one wants to print on a truly blank piece of paper, e.g. on the glossy side of photo paper.

The last time I was faced with this conundrum and failing to find anything useful about it in Google, I simply tested it, and the first interpretation proved correct: this printer (HP) will print on the bottom side of the paper. Mind how I say: “this printer,” because I deem it possible that there are other manufacturers who use the second interpretation. Because as we all know, the only thing printer manufacturers want, is to piss off consumers.

This icon also fails to clarify what the top side of the page will be, except for those people who have a habit of folding dog ears on the top of every piece of paper they insert into a printer. Common sense however dictates that the side that first enters the printer will be the first to be printed on.

If I would have a go at designing a better icon, it would be something like this:

Proposed improved icon

The disadvantage is of course that this icon is not universal and may need to be adapted to the specific printer model.