Good/Bad Design 6: Copiers


Having worked at the HSSE Library in an office by the copy machines for the past year, I can tell you that wholeheartedly that they are NOT easy to use. Everyday, people knock on door asking for help of some sort. And it’s not that they’re unintelligent; it’s just that the large contraption is a beast, especially when you’re doing something other than making a copy.

It’s almost difficult to point out all the way this object is confusing. If you’re making one copy, I suppose it’s quite simple to understand to press the large START button. But then again, why am I pressing START when I want to COPY?

In fact, when I think about it there are many labels that could be clarified: To copy a regular 8.5″ x 11″ page, the user is required to understand that it is “Letter” size. And then they are required to understand that “Letter” is abbreviated as “LT”. Same with Ledger (LD) and Legal (LG). Different paper trays are also labeled as A4 or A3… Why? That means nothing to the user. And sometimes you can choose an “Original Mode”, but what constitutes as “Original”? In this case, the copier does a poor job of the mental model, or matching the system to the real world.

Although, I think one of the most interesting aspects (of the copiers in the library, at least) is that they require to user to switch between pressing tactile buttons on a keypad and digital buttons on the touch screen. This is not only for switching the mode you want – Say, from COPY to SCAN – but even when inputting your email. I’ve had to tell several students that numbers aren’t listed on the touch screen because you have to use the number keypad instead. A simple switch, but one that isn’t intuitive.

Another common mistake is that some users don’t seem to even notice from where the copies eject. It actually appears in one of two nooks in the copier, and you usually have to bend down slightly to see and grab them.

With all the complex workings of a copier, it’s no wonder that staff need to be trained to use them and help others; it’s practically impossible to figure out on your own. Even I’m not learned in all its functions.


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