printing, design, students

7 February 2007, 15:38

I just finished the selection procedure for my second openUsability student project. This time, I will be working on openPrinting with an associate. Meanwhile, the pilot GIMP project is still running fine.

I want to thank Ellen Reitmayr for suggesting that openPrinting take part in the openUsability student program, and for organising the whole shebang.

After reading the CVs and interviewing candidates, here are some of my impressions.

printing is not sexy

Significantly less people applied for the printing project than for GIMP or for other popular projects in this round of student projects. My conclusion is that printing does not really tickle the imagination of interaction and usability students.

That is a pity, because the field of printing interaction is actually wide‐open for innovation. Having performed an evaluation of the available desktop platforms, I present here my take on the state of the art in printing interaction:

no idea about vista, but printing on xp is stuck in the early nineties. One size fits all; add a tab for bells, and one for whistles when needed. The lack of interaction support for new categories of printing developed since the early nineties is apparent, and one can forget about new patterns in working. ‘We’ve got to do better than that,’ is the consensus among the openPrinting project.
mac os‐x
late‐nineties printing interaction, but there is constant innovation going on at Apple. ‘Give us something like that,’ is the consensus among the openPrinting project. But I know Apple is looking further ahead, and why would I copy last year’s model, and sell it as new design to a project?
they copied an old‐timer (windows) for their brand‐new printing interface. No vision equals no inspiration, not worth all the development effort…
a raw, technical representation of a config file, missing any interaction concept. Enough said…

So let’s bring printing interaction into the 21st century, and get gnome and kde on board to realise it.

method overload

‘These students know more usability methods than I do!’ was my first impression. But after googling some of the unusual suspects, familiar descriptions appeared. Another case of alphabet soup.

I interviewed three candidates, and all of them were concerned if we were going to use enough of those usability methods. I had to explain them that printing is so general—in a way, so abstract—that Jan Mühlig, Ellen and I have recognised that throwing more usability methods at it simply creates a bigger jungle of facts.

So the preferred approach is architectural. Usability plays an important role in validating and debugging our concepts, and in proving the client projects—openPrinting, gnome, kde—that our innovative concept is a clear improvement.

the design gap

All three candidates I spoke to went to study at design institutes with the dream of making software and the web function better, for users. All three were disappointed to realise that, all the teachers and their fellow students were interested in, was making things prettier.

So these young designers are graduating, not trusting their fellow designers to be even aware of the usability issues they create. They feel their education is incomplete, and have to look for other ways to obtain interaction architecture skills.

They know they have to, to be able to improve the interaction that surrounds us all.

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