Objectives. In health education, the design of written materials is seldom subject to experimental tests. Using insights from cognitive-ergonomic literature on usability we tested a brochure against three stepwise improved versions. Effects were assessed of pictorials that flagged references in the brochure text, the use of tabs and colour coding of these pictorials and tabs, on finding information in the brochure. Methods. One hundred Dutch adults from the general population were videotaped while looking up search items. Dependent measures relating to search effectiveness, efficiency, satisfaction and learnability were extracted. Results. Results showed a general inferiority of the original brochure. The presence of coloured tabs and pictorials contributed to a more usable brochure design, although errors were still made. Conclusion. It is concluded that this kind of research may provide valuable insights for more effective health education material design and thus contributes to the effectiveness of health education practice.