[Desktop_printing] Usability: Printing roles, tasks and environments

Michael Sweet mike at easysw.com
Wed Mar 8 17:21:24 PST 2006

Robert L Krawitz wrote:
> ...
>    If you look at the Gimp/Gutenprint driver options, you'll see a LOT
>    of output quality controls (that is one of the major complaints I
>    have about the current Gutenprint drivers), and that is something
>    I'd like to talk about at the summit - focusing on usability WRT
>    driver options.
> Or as I'd prefer to look at it, how to better organize and present the
> options to users.  I don't believe that it's necessary to reduce
> functionality to improve usability -- I'd prefer to have good defaults

In general, improving usability usually boils down to reducing the
number of choices a user can/has to make.  This *might* mean a
reduction in functionality, but in my experience you can change
how a user provides a particular piece of information to get the
same effect *without* losing functionality.

For example, the current Gutenprint driver separates the density
and gamma controls - with CUPS 1.2, you can provide a *single* option
that supports both values so the user can pick a preset or adjust an
on-screen curve control to set the gamma *and* density.  You don't
lose functionality, and you improve usability and reduce the number
of options at the same time.

That said, if in the end you lose a small amount of functionality to
provide a large improvement in usability, IMHO you should go for
usability over functionality - if something isn't usable then it
isn't functional - you ultimately can't get things done.

> (or simple settings) that work for most users, while having the whole
> panoply of options for people with more advanced needs.  When the
> epson-inkjet at leben.com mailing list was in existence, there were a lot
> of people who were screaming for more control over their printers.
> Those people were definitely the high end power users (professional
> photographers, artists, and such), but they're the ones who lead the
> way and we should not ignore their needs.

Sometimes you need to provide different solutions to different groups
of users.

> The current PPD-based print dialogs I've seen don't have any way of
> selectively hiding options from users.  Many (but not all) offer
> tabbed dialogs, but that's still a lot of tabs with the number of
> options we offer.  Gutenprint provides a lot of information that could
> be used to be more selective about which options to display, but
> there's no way of taking advantage of them.

The problem with option hiding is that users have to figure out how
to "unhide" those options.  We run into the same issue with GUIs that
disable conflicting controls - you end up making it extremely
difficult for users to make a selection...

> I'd really like to offer the curve settings (and some other composite
> options, such as arrays) to CUPS users as well as GIMP users (and
> users of other applications that link directly to libgutenprint, which
> is the core driver package).  The CUPS 1.2 PPD extensions will help in
> terms of offering numerical options, but there's still a way to go.
> This is certainly a topic I will be intensely interested in
> discussing.

Me, too!

Michael Sweet, Easy Software Products           mike at easysw dot com
Internet Printing and Publishing Software        http://www.easysw.com

More information about the Printing-summit mailing list