Paper Orientation Symbol - Helpful, but could be better...

Lifehacker had a nice little "reminder" post about the icons you're likely to find on the paper tray of a printer or copier, show at left. They're designed, and quite well, to let you know which side of the paper will be printed - the top side (left) or bottom (right). However, the comments on that post point out that many people don't get the message - it seems that the icon just kinda blends into its surroundings, not able to deliver its message because people aren't aware that it has a message to deliver! So the first improvement I'd suggest would be to give it some text: "Paper Orientation:" or something similar. However, the job still isn't quite done - you might need to know which is the top end of the printed side. Only very far down in the Lifehacker post's comments does someone point out that the dog-ear fold shows the top end - and this is certainly not intuitive enough to figure out on one's own. An arrow with a "TOP" label might do the trick, or even without the label, a la "This Side Up." Sure, the icon won't look as slick with all this extra text - but hey, it'll at least get its job done.

3 comments:

Kevin said...

I think this is one of those cases where text is better -- not just to point to the icon, but instead of the icon: FACE UP or FACE DOWN is all that's needed, or maybe those words overtop of the icons. Of course something different would be needed for non-English markets...

Dave Gustafson said...

Good point, Kevin, text could be a good way to clear up the ambiguity here. However - and I was thinking this as I was making my own recommendations to add text to this icon - any text makes the result localized to that language, so that you'd need different stickers (or even whole parts) when selling the product to a market which speaks another language. As a product-development mechanical engineer, I can tell ya, it's a great big pain in the ass!
Another thing that had occurred to me is that either the icon or "FACE UP/DOWN" text would still be a little ambiguous - is it saying that the new printing will happen on that side, or that you should put already-printed pages in that way in order to print the other side? Yarg...
By the way, nice blog of your own on Touch Usability! :-)

Jeff said...

The reason they don't include "TOP" or "Paper Orientation" on these icons is because they want them to be internationalized -- so they can use the exact same template in the US as in Europe, China, South America, and wherever else they export to. I have a longstanding dislike of "no-text icons".