Challenge Accepted: Make Scanning Simpler

Simple is not easy…to make.   Oxymoronic?  Absolutely.  But when designing software like PaperStream ClickScan, it takes months and even years of observation, usage, iteration, and testing to distill the core functions of an activity like scanning to its most basic components.  Not only was hands-on usage important—I needed to be the software’s first and most critical customer—but I also needed to observe how others use it.  Do they become confused or mis-click?  What is their thought process and organization after they have loaded the paper?  How can they get the digitalized image to the correct location, and most importantly, how fast can they find the document after scanning?

The design complexity comes from paring down the software features to the point where it will be used by that golden 80% of users without creating an overwhelming user experience (UX) of choices, menus and steps to do what you want to do—get a piece of paper into PDF form.  Let’s face it:  Extraneous steps are bad.   We wanted the software to be used efficiently, without training, by people who may not scan every day and need to scan to destinations that don’t precisely fit in the standard Electronic Content Management (ECM) workflow. 

During our first meeting on a small whiteboard, we outlined these design priorities:

  • Ready-to-Use after Install
  • Responsive Software
  • Clear Scanning Flow
  • Easy to Find Files
  • Interoperability

Ready-to-Use.   There is a natural reward of using a product immediately after purchase, whether it is driving a new car off the lot or heating up water in a new microwave.  PaperStream ClickScan had to be ready-to-go once installed and the scanner plugged in.  Naturally, after installing the software and powering on the scanner, customers placed paper in the ADF, then pushed the scan button on the front panel.  Our software had to be able to pull in the paper and present save options without any need for pre-configuration.   In the box, we still provide our staple and powerful PaperStream Capture which covers 99% of batch scanning needs with its 250 or so features, but with power comes complexity, learning curves, and time-spent to setup customized flows.    

Responsive Software.   Size matters, and in the software world smaller is better for responsiveness.  We absolutely wanted to have an interaction within a second or so after the scan button is pushed.  Loading software and logging in takes time, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute.   Whether multiple times a day or even once a day, this waiting time costs money in the form of labor and delays in the work that needs to be done.    As it turns out, we had to agonize over Optical Character Recognition (OCR)—do we automatically install it and triple the size of our application or leave it as an install (post or pre) decision with a smidgeon of decision complexity.   In the end, we went back to our white board and chose responsiveness with OCR defaulted off on the install.

Clear Scanning Flow.   Scan, choose direction, then quality control (QC) and file naming.   This actually took many years of observation to make sure the software was flexible enough to match these common ad hoc usages.  Scanning is not always to folder—sometimes we need to email a document to others or even ourselves.  Sometime we just need a copy, so we can scan to print.   We also wanted the rotation, delete and re-order controls on the same screen, as the file naming as it, easily eliminated an extra step.    To push this flow even farther, once the customer has scanned enough to trust the scanner without the QC step, they can turn off unused processes to automatically save from just pushing the scan button.

 PaperStream ClickScan Software Interface

Easy to Find Files.   Where did I put it? Anyone who has scanned a lot or used a computer for years has had the problem of finding a file.  I know I have thousands upon thousands of files and folders on my drives.   Finding a file, especially one that is not part typical workflow is painful and time-wasteful.    To solve this, we added a simple check box.  Open folder upon save.  Presto!  There is your file.  Do what you need to with it.  

Interoperability.  Okay I know this is a big, general word.  Sorry.   But what I mean here simply is that PaperStream ClickScan works alongside other workflow software.   Returning to our observations of real scanning environments, we noted that over 40% of scan operators did ad hoc scanning for other people.  This meant an interruption, closing down their ECM software, launching another application, scanning, saving, finding, and transferring the scanned document by email or jump drive.   Why not just pop in the paper and scan directly to email without the other steps?   That is exactly what we did.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through our process to help improve your scanning.  PaperStream ClickScan is free and available for download for fi Series and SP Fujitsu scanners.  Just click here to try it and most importantly, let me know if we made it simple enough for you.