Experts in research involving disabled and older consumers

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Making packaging a whole lot easier

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By: Eric

Eric Harris, Rica Senior Researcher specialising in User Experience (UX) research projects including packaging

We’ve all been frustrated trying to quickly get our hands on the thing we bought, only to be given one last challenge – the packaging test.

How do you open the package? This can be a particular problem for older people with declining strength and dexterity.

Is there a pull tag? A serrated edge? Maybe something to press, twist or pull? The intended way of opening a package is not always obvious, and in some extreme cases it can seem almost impossible.

A well designed package will offer a solution to its opening by what designers call its affordances, just as a mug presents an easily understood handle to grasp or a push button invites itself to be pressed. Where an obvious opening solution is not possible the use of instructions or markers on the packaging can help. The goal is to open, and in some cases reseal, the package with ease.

A poorly designed package will not help the user open it in any way. It often uses overly strong glues or press sealed plastics to hold the contents. To open these we turn to brute force or a pair of scissors!

Most packaging falls between the two extremes. There is help though.

Rica has been using the technical specification CEN/TS 15945 as a bench mark method to test the ease of opening of food and pharmaceutical packages. This standard uses older people between the ages of 65 and 80 years old in usability trials to test the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of opening packages. Groups of 20 older people were picked from our consumer research panel, and individually given packages to explore and open. The time they took with these tasks was recorded and a pass or fail given dependant on the group’s performance.

To find out more about Rica’s research in packaging, please click the following link:

See also: Usability testing | Case studiesMystery shopping