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Label Management
May 17, 2022
April 24, 2024

The Ultimate Checklist To Making Your Packaging More User-Friendly

Rangan Das

The Ultimate Checklist To Making Your Packaging More User-Friendly

May 17, 2022
April 24, 2024
Rangan Das


Packaging is often the first impression your brand makes, a silent ambassador on crowded shelves vying for consumer attention. While eye-catching designs are crucial, simply looking good isn't enough. In today's competitive landscape, choice of packaging design has become a powerful differentiator, impacting not just brand perception but also your bottom line.

Brands need to think beyond aesthetics. Imagine a customer with arthritis struggling to open a jar, or someone visually impaired navigating confusing product information. Frustrating packaging alienates potential buyers and damages brand trust. Conversely, inclusive designs that prioritize ease of use foster positive experiences, loyalty, and repeat purchases. 

For a company targeting customers with arthritis, easy-open caps and larger grip areas become not just features, but expressions of empathy and care. They demonstrate an understanding of user needs and translate into brand loyalty. A brand aiming to win eco-conscious consumers must consider sustainable materials and clear recycling instructions as they aren't just trendy add-ons, but tangible commitments to environmental responsibility. This resonates with customers who value these principles and can lead to increased sales.

However, many brands still underestimate the impact of user-friendly packaging on their success. This article delves into:

  • The compelling benefits of inclusive design: From wider customer reach to enhanced brand image and improved customer service, discover how user-friendly packaging strengthens your business.
  • Key considerations for accessibility: Explore essential factors like physical abilities, visual impairments, and cognitive differences to create packaging that caters to diverse needs.
  • A practical checklist: Our comprehensive guide to enhance your packaging design journey, ensuring it's not just visually appealing, but also accessible and user-friendly.

Also read: 10 Foundational Elements of Packaging Design - Artwork Flow

Why packaging needs to be user-friendly

Consumers are demanding more than just eye-catching designs; they're actively seeking products that offer a seamless and positive experience – and that's where user-friendly packaging comes in. It's no longer a bonus feature, but a crucial element of brand success that extends far beyond aesthetics. Let's delve into the compelling reasons why prioritizing user-friendliness is essential for modern brands:

1. Expanding your reach beyond demographics

Forget the days of generic packaging designed for a homogeneous audience. User-friendly design embraces inclusivity, catering to a diverse spectrum of customers, including:

  • People with disabilities: Easy-to-open mechanisms, clear Braille labeling, and contrasting colors for visual impairments unlock access for a significant customer segment often overlooked by brands. This translates not only to wider market reach but also to social responsibility, showing empathy and care for a community with unmet needs.
  • Older adults: Age-related changes in dexterity and strength make features like larger grips, tear strips, and resealable containers invaluable. By catering to this growing demographic, you not only tap into their purchasing power but also demonstrate thoughtfulness and inclusivity, fostering loyalty and trust.
  • Children and families: Safe, intuitive, and spill-proof packaging creates a positive experience for parents and fosters brand loyalty from an early age. It showcases your understanding of their needs and differentiates you from competitors, leading to repeat purchases and positive word-of-mouth marketing within their networks.

2. Building Brand Advocacy

User-friendly packaging goes beyond simply looking good; it communicates a brand's values and commitment to customer care. This translates into:

  • Positive brand perception: Consumers appreciate brands that prioritize ease of use. It demonstrates thoughtfulness and consideration for their needs, building trust and loyalty. This positive perception translates into word-of-mouth marketing, organically amplifying your brand value, reach and influence.
  • Differentiation in a crowded market: Standing out in a sea of sameness is crucial. User-friendly packaging becomes a key differentiator, showcasing innovation and a commitment to accessibility. This attracts customers who value these qualities, allowing you to carve out a unique niche in the market and attract loyal brand advocates.
  • Enhanced brand reputation: Addressing accessibility concerns and incorporating inclusive design showcases social responsibility, aligning your brand with current consumer values. This strengthens your reputation and positions you as a brand that genuinely cares, further attracting customers who resonate with your commitment to a positive social impact.

3. Creating a frictionless experience

Let's face it, frustrating packaging creates a negative first impression and can even lead to abandoned purchases. User-friendly design fosters:

  • Convenience and ease of use: Clear instructions, intuitive opening mechanisms, and resealable containers make using your product a pleasure, not a chore. This enhances customer satisfaction, encourages repeat purchases, and increases the likelihood of positive online reviews and recommendations.
  • Reduced customer service costs: Self-explanatory packaging minimizes inquiries about usage, saving you time and resources. It demonstrates a proactive approach to customer needs, showcasing your commitment to providing a seamless experience from purchase to use.
  • Brand advocacy through positive experiences: Happy customers become brand advocates. When your packaging creates a positive experience, customers are more likely to recommend your brand to others, boosting your marketing reach organically and amplifying your brand message through trusted voices.

Also read: Learn How User-Generated Content Boosted These Brands to the Top

4. Improving sustainability through reduced environmental impact

Today's consumers are increasingly conscious of environmental impact. User-friendly packaging can contribute to:

  • Reduced waste: Opting for reusable or recyclable materials, minimizing packaging volume, and providing clear recycling instructions demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. This resonates with eco-conscious consumers, strengthening your brand image and aligning you with their values.
  • Responsible sourcing: Using ethically sourced materials and avoiding harmful chemicals demonstrates environmental and social responsibility. This resonates with consumers who value transparency and ethical practices, further enhancing your brand image and building trust.
  • Building a positive environmental impact: By prioritizing sustainability in your packaging, you contribute to a positive environmental impact. This not only resonates with consumers but also positions your brand as a leader in responsible practices, solidifying your reputation as a force for good.

Things to consider when designing product packaging for accessibility

Creating user-friendly packaging isn't just about aesthetics; it's about ensuring everyone can interact with your product comfortably and independently. Accessibility considerations go beyond physical limitations and encompass a range of user needs. Here's a comprehensive breakdown of key aspects to consider when designing for inclusivity:

1. Physical abilities

Dexterity and strength

Can individuals with limited hand strength, dexterity, or fine motor skills easily open and manipulate the packaging? Consider easy-grip handles, tear strips, push tabs, or lever mechanisms instead of twist closures or tight seals. 

For example, blister packaging is often known for being extremely hard to open. However, they are still widely used for products ranging from home improvement tools or electronics such as microSD cards. Often, you need access to special tools to open these packaging. 

On the other hand, Amazon’s in-house brand, called AmazonBasics is known for its “frustration-free” packaging with easy-to-open cardboard boxes. Another great example is Microsoft’s accessible packaging for the Xbox Adaptive Controller. 

Open your Xbox easily
Loops make it easier for amputees to open boxes.
Source: Microsoft

Motor skills

Individuals with limited mobility might struggle with reaching high shelves or handling cumbersome packages. Opt for lightweight packaging, secure placement on shelves, and clear visibility for easier identification and retrieval.

Paper derivatives can often be used to create strong packaging that is not only sustainable but also provides an improved handling experience. An example is the bulk packaging of Boxed Water and McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes.

McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes
Source: Behance

Sensory sensitivities

Consider individuals with pain sensitivities or tactile aversions. Avoid rough textures, strong fragrances, or excessive noise-generating elements. For instance, trypophobia is quite common and occurs in one in six people. Hence, being mindful of the packaging design, the choice of void fill, the textured print and others can help people feel inclusive. 

Apple rules this space with the simple box design of their products. The iPhone boxes often have nothing other than the product image and name on the top and side panels. Samsung also follows a similar design rule showcasing just the product colorways and the name.  

Samsung packaging box
Source: Samsung New Zealand on YouTube

2. Visual impairments

Color contrast

Ensure high contrast between text, background, and any important elements like warning labels. Adhere to WCAG guidelines for minimum contrast ratios for different font sizes.

This becomes particularly important for food and beverage packaging. Information such as nutritional information or allergen declaration must be clearly visible. Not only does it help the visually impaired, but it is also a legal requirement. 

Also read: How to Use Color Theory in Graphic Design? - Artwork Flow

Braille labeling

Include Braille labels for essential information like product name, brand, ingredients, and instructions. Consider tactile elements like raised letters or textures for additional guidance.

While this becomes crucial in pharmaceuticals, the cosmetics industry is also including braille in their packaging.

Braille labeling
Source: Packaging of the World

Font size and clarity

Use large, clear fonts that are easy to read for individuals with low vision. Avoid complex fonts or decorative elements that hinder readability.

3. Cognitive differences

Clear and concise instructions

Simplify instructions, using short sentences, plain language, and logical steps. Consider visual aids like pictograms or diagrams for enhanced clarity. Even people without cognitive impairments can benefit from clarity in packaging designs. 

Information overload

Avoid overwhelming users with excessive text or complex information. Prioritize essential details and present them in a well-organized format. In products that should come with warnings, such as medication or household chemicals, the packaging design should reduce redundancy and clutter as much as possible.

Multiple information formats 

Offer instructions in audio format (QR codes or NFC tags linked to audio recordings) or Braille for individuals with different learning styles or reading limitations. With the rise of smart packaging, brands can work towards disseminating both supplementary as well as critical information through the digital medium. 

Multiple info format

4. Cultural sensitivity

Language accessibility

Consider the target audience and offer multilingual labeling or information availability in different languages. However, this should be done without introducing clutter to the packaging. 

Imagery and symbolism

Be mindful of cultural sensitivities when using images or symbols. Ensure they are inclusive and avoid potentially offensive or culturally inaccurate representations. Stick to industry standard symbolisms and educate yourself on mishaps or faux pas that other brands have experienced in the past. 

Religious or dietary considerations

Be aware of potential religious or dietary restrictions and avoid packaging materials or ingredients that might conflict with these needs. Educate yourself on the cultural nuances of the regions you are marketing your product in. Stay up to date with region-specific regulations. 

To maintain cultural sensitivity, ArtworkFlow’s ComplyAI helps you name and highlight words or images you’d like to avoid using in your designs. A quick automated check will show you any words and phrases that need to be removed or replaced in the file. 

5. Sustainability

Reusable and recyclable materials

Choose materials that can be easily reused, recycled, or composted, minimizing waste and environmental impact. Consider using recycled materials for packaging. Soy ink is another sustainable option for printing. 

Clear recycling instructions

Provide clear and concise instructions on how to properly dispose of the packaging, promoting responsible recycling practices among users. Simply putting symbols does not help, provide instructions on how the packaging can be recycled or reused. 

Sustainable sourcing

Choose ethically sourced and sustainable materials that align with your brand's commitment to environmental responsibility. Simply using biodegradable materials is not enough. Be transparent on the impact of manufacturing the packaging. 

Additional Tips

Conduct user testing

Include individuals with diverse abilities and needs in the design process to gather feedback and identify potential accessibility issues.

Stay updated on accessibility standards

Regularly review and adhere to evolving accessibility standards and guidelines set by relevant organizations.

Seek expert advice

 Consult accessibility experts or organizations to gain insights and ensure your packaging design complies with best practices.

Use the right tools.

Creating and maintaining the right packaging design for a product across different markets can be a gargantuan task that involves multiple departments to pitch in. This requires the use of the right collaborative tools. 

Free checklist for accessible packaging in 2024

To help you navigate this journey, we've compiled a free 7-point checklist to guide your packaging design towards inclusivity and user-friendliness:

1. Prioritize simple unboxing for all

  • Ease of use: Ditch complex closures and opt for intuitive mechanisms like pull tabs, tear strips, or easy-twist caps. Consider different hand strengths and motor skills, offering options suitable for those with limited dexterity.
  • Accessibility for all: Include features like larger handles or cut-outs for easy gripping, keeping in mind users with mobility limitations or arthritis. Explore child-resistant options that don't compromise accessibility for adults.

2. Make information crystal clear

  • High contrast & clarity: Employ high-contrast colors for text and crucial information, adhering to WCAG guidelines. Try to use large, clear fonts (sans-serif is best) and avoid relying solely on color to convey essential details.
  • Multiple languages & formats: Cater to diverse linguistic backgrounds by providing information in multiple relevant languages. Consider offering Braille labels for key details and explore audio instructions for added accessibility.

3. Simplify instructions and design

  • Clarity & conciseness: Avoid complex jargon and lengthy instructions. Use short, easily understandable sentences and visually appealing elements like infographics or symbols to enhance clarity.
  • Uncluttered & consistent: Resist information overload. Prioritize essential details and present them in a structured, organized manner. Maintain consistency in layout, color schemes, and labeling across your product line for familiarity and ease of use.

4. Cater to diverse sensory needs

  • Scents & textures: Avoid strong fragrances and prioritize unscented options for those with sensitivities. Be mindful of potential discomfort caused by certain textures and opt for smooth, calming materials.
  • Noise considerations: If your packaging incorporates sound elements, ensure they are adjustable or removable for individuals with auditory sensitivities. Offer clear labeling to warn about potential sounds beforehand.

5. Design for sustainability & end-of-life

  • Recycle & reuse: Choose packaging materials that are recyclable or compostable, and prioritize designs that encourage reuse. Provide clear instructions for responsible disposal, empowering consumers to make environmentally conscious choices.
  • Responsible sourcing: Opt for ethically sourced materials and avoid harmful chemicals, demonstrating your commitment to environmental and social responsibility.

6. User testing & continuous improvement

  • Diverse perspectives: Regularly conduct user testing with diverse groups, including individuals with disabilities, older adults, and children. Gather feedback and iterate on your design based on their experiences.
  • Stay updated: Accessibility guidelines evolve. Stay informed about the latest standards and best practices to ensure your packaging remains inclusive and user-friendly.

7. Partner with accessibility experts

  • Seek expertise: Consider collaborating with accessibility specialists or organizations to gain valuable insights and guidance throughout the design process. Their expertise can help you identify potential barriers and create truly inclusive solutions.
  • Prioritize software solutions built around accessibility:  Effective packaging design requires the right software. Check out solutions such as Artwork Flow that helps you stay compliant as well as inclusive. 

Wrap Up

By following these 7 points and embracing accessibility as a core design principle, you can create packaging that not only stands out on the shelf but also resonates with a broader audience, strengthens your brand image, and contributes to a more inclusive world. With ComplyAI in Artwork Flow, you can be always sure that you don’t miss out on any of the accessibility or regulatory checks. Check out the demo today!

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