A Complex Task

The global printing market is worth USD 35 billion and HP is the market leader with over 20% share. Printers come in many shapes and sizes, from office laserjets through to industrial Indigo machines. A key market for HP is the large format Graphic Information Systems sector where they are the dominant player. Geared at production and specialist office environments, these machines have more complex features and more demanding business requirements. Frontend.com worked with HP over an eight year period to advance the user experience of the many different interface touch points, to create a consistent interaction solution.

“Frontend.com quickly integrated themselves into our design engineering team, creating an innovative and effective project workgroup. We were very pleased with the results.”

Macia Sole, R&D Engineer, Hewlett Packard Espanola

Focus on Usability

Large format printers are complex machines. There are many moving parts, manual levers and controls, and an onboard digital interface combined with a print driver and a web driver. Walk-up tasks such as loading media, printhead replacement and so on, were initiated from the front-panel. While the majority of printing tasks were conducted via the print driver UI, or increasingly the web driver UI. HP wanted to introduce consistency in the user experience across all of these interfaces. As the US government was a key customer, HP wanted to improve the universal design attributes in compliance with US Section 508 accessibility legislation.

 

User testing the assembly process for a large-format printer.
Montage of two men with a large packing crate, and a man loading a paper roll into a printer.

We selected Frontend.com from a list of several European companies providing Human Factors and Usability services. Their high level of expertise in the areas of accessibility and interface design for both hardware and software products was central to our decision. What pleased us most was the high level of knowledge, enthusiasm and teamwork that the Frontend.com team brought to the project.

Luis-Miguel Molinero, Human Factors Engineer, HP

We worked with HP to implement a user-centred design strategy with their in-house engineering teams across a number of product ranges, most notably the DesignJet 4000/4500 and the Z6100 series. With each new product development cycle we would plan a series of ergonomic reviews and evaluations, followed by several iterative cycles of user testing and customer feedback. Over time we helped evolve the core print driver and web server printing interfaces, as well as simplifying the user interface on the front panel and streamlining the out-of-box design.

Strategically, accessibility compliance was a key area for HP. Having just authored the Irish Government’s IT Accessibility Guidelines for products and interfaces, we were in a strong position to implement an accessibility strategy across all product interfaces culminating in the production of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template that exceeded compliance standards.

 

Two Frontend.com team members collaborating at a computer monitor.
Two Frontend.com team members standing and discussing a design project.

 

A Strategy for Success

Throughout our time with HP, there was a strong desire to advance the understanding of user needs throughout the product engineering teams. We worked with HP to implement a persona-driven design approach across each of the product areas. This transformed the understanding of user needs as well as creating a consistent design reference across the large and often dispersed design teams.

Large format printers are worth USD 1.8 billion to HP. The launch of the Z6100 series increased HP large format sales by 9% of volume, giving them a 65% market share in this sector. The ease of use the platform has been widely recognised by industry and customers alike.

“Working with a 42-inch Z6100PS unit, we found the HP setup and installation top rate. In less than three hours the unit went from crate to full operation.”

Digital Output Magazine Review, Vol XIII, Issue 10

“Overall ease of use is another key strength of the HP Z6100ps. From paper loading to job accounting to creating colour ICC profiles, this unit is exceptionally user-friendly.”

Buyers Lab Inc Review

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