Effects of prospective-user factors and sign design features on guessability of pharmaceutical pictograms

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-275
Journal / PublicationPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


Objective: To examine the associations between the guessing performance of 25 pharmaceutical pictograms and five sign features for naïve participants. The effect of prospective-user factors on guessing performance was also investigated. Methods: A total of 160 Hong Kong Chinese people, drawn largely from a young student population, guessed the meanings of 25 pharmaceutical pictograms that were generally not familiar to them. Participants then completed a questionnaire about their drug buying and drug label reading habits, and their demographics and medication history. Finally they rated five features (familiarity, concreteness, complexity, meaningfulness, and semantic distance) of the pharmaceutical pictograms using 0-100 scales. Results: For all pharmaceutical pictograms, mean and standard deviation of guessability score were 64.8 and 17.1, respectively. Prospective-user factors of 'occupation', 'age' and 'education level' significantly affected guessing performance. For sign features, semantic closeness was the best predictor of guessability score, followed by simplicity, concreteness, meaningfulness and familiarity. Conclusion: User characteristics and sign features are critical for pharmaceutical pictograms. To be effective, pharmaceutical pictograms should have obvious and direct connections with familiar things and it is recommended that pharmaceutical pictograms should be designed with consideration of the five sign features investigated here. Practice Implications: This study provides useful information and recommendations to assist interface designers to create and evaluate icons for pharmaceutical products and to design more user-friendly pharmaceutical pictograms. However, further work is needed to see how older people respond to such pharmaceutical pictograms. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

Research Area(s)

  • Design features, Guessing, Instructions, Pharmaceutical Pictograms, User factors