Key principles to guide development of consumer medicine information--content analysis of information design texts

Ann Pharmacother. 2009 Apr;43(4):700-6. doi: 10.1345/aph.1L522. Epub 2009 Mar 24.


Background: Effective written consumer medicines information is essential to support safe and effective medicine taking, but the wording and layout of currently provided materials do not meet patients' needs.

Objective: To identify principles from the wider discipline of information design for use by health professionals when developing or assessing written drug information for patients.

Methods: Six experts in information design nominated texts on best practice in information design applicable to consumer medicines information. A content analysis identified key principles that were tabulated to bring out key themes.

Results: Six texts that met the inclusion criteria, were identified, and content analysis indentified 4 themes: words, type, lines, and layout. Within these main themes, there were 24 subthemes. Selected principles relating to these subthemes were: use short familiar words, short sentences, and short headings that stand out from the text; use a conversational tone of voice, addressing the reader as "you"; use a large type size while retaining sufficient white space; use bullet points to organize lists; use unjustified text (ragged right) and bold, lower-case text for emphasis. Pictures or graphics do not necessarily improve a document.

Conclusions: Applying the good information design principles identified to written consumer medicines information could support health professionals when developing and assessing drug information for patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Consumer Health Information / methods*
  • Consumer Health Information / standards*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards*