Published in 27th IAPRI International Association of Packaging Research Institutes Proceedings: Valencia, Spain, June 8, 2015, pages 1-10.
Abstract: In the United States, most drugs stored in crash carts of emergency rooms are packaged in folding cartons with opening mechanisms that involve pressing and tearing the bottom of the package. Anecdotal evidence and a previous study conducted by the research team suggest that these packages are counterintuitive for lay users. The concept of affordances, how design features communicate actionable possibilities, can be applied to improve the usability of packaging. In order to measure the effect of individual design features and previous experience on opening time and error frequency during first opening attempt, a commercially available package for epinephrine was redesigned and tested with two panels of participants; 33 lay users and 17 healthcare providers. Each experiment was conducted as a randomized complete block design with three factors: location of opening mechanism (top or bottom), type of opening mechanism (press-in or tab), and colour contrast in opening area (with and without). By crossing all possible conditions (2x2x2), eight different folding carton designs resulted. Each participant was treated as a block and presented all eight designs in a random order. Participants stood behind a counter of a fixed height and completed eight opening tasks in a lab facility (lay users) and an emergency room (healthcare providers). They were instructed to imagine an emergency scenario where they needed to remove all contents from each package as quickly as possible. Results show that colour contrast had no significant effect on opening time, having a tab significantly reduces time to open. More specifically, tabs cued the user as to the correct end containing the opening feature regardless of it was positioned on the top or bottom of the package. When there was no tab, then having the opening at the top resulted in a significant reduction in time to open, compared to having the opening at the bottom. In an analysis comparing the eight designs, the actual commercial packages ranked as the worst designs in terms of opening time and error frequency. Findings have critical implications for designing packages that are more usable and for eliminating errors during product use.
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