How can you make the experience of completing an eLearning course as easy as possible? User experience (UX) is a critical part of digital learning design that must be considered at every stage of development - especially as the range of digital learning options expands. Our digital design team are specialists in UX and have created this cheat sheet for getting UX design right.
Why UX design for eLearning is important
Ux (user experience) design addresses the complete experience a user has with your product. It covers the behaviours, attitudes and emotions that interacting with the product invokes. In the case of eLearning, often we focus on presenting the content and engaging the learner in learning activities, and sometimes, the holistic user experience and user interface design (UI) becomes secondary - an after thought.
Just to be clear on the terms UI and UX:
- UI - is the product the the learner uses to access the content - eg. could be a website, app, game, virtual world, kiosk, standard eLearning player etc.
- UX - is the complete experience and how that user feels while navigating the UI
Bad UX design for eLearning = bad content
There is no point in having fabulous, sparkling content, if your learners have to wade through layers and layers of bad UI design which causes a bad UX. At Logicearth, we'd argue that UX design for eLearning is every bit as important as Instructional Design (ID). For many years, Learning Experience Designers (formerly Instructional Designers) did not have to concern themselves with the user interface; most eLearning content appeared within a standard 'click-next' player, with the course menu navigation aid at the left or right side. More fancy companies allowed you the choice of showing the course menu or not! But with the ever widening spectrum of digital content options, our growing digital content ecosystem is firmly putting UX design back on the table for all designers to consider more carefully.
10 tips for getting UX design for eLearning right
1. Plan the UX
Before putting hand to mouse, it is important that we have a plan of action. Jumping straight into the digital design of the interface will most likely result in lots of changes and wasted time. A clear plan of the content will ensure that time is used wisely and limit the amount of revisiting that will need to be done further down the line. When planning for the aesthetic element, it is often beneficial to sketch out your thoughts (user-flow diagrams, wireframes, site maps etc…) before applying them digitally.
The most important person in the eLearning design process is the person that will be doing the learning. Therefore, we must take care to understand what it is that the user needs to get from the experience. Keeping them in mind throughout the design process is a necessity if they are going to enjoy a seamless user journey.
2. Never ask 'how?'
If at any point throughout the course, the user needs to stop & think ‘how do I…’ the interface design has failed. ‘How do I get to the next page?’, ‘How do I open this tab?’ or ‘How do I close this pop-up?’ are all examples of questions the user should never have to ask. The navigation should be designed in a way that what to do next comes naturally to the user.
3. Don't assume
Assuming that a user knows what you know is one of the biggest mistakes a digital designer can make. We should plan our design under the impression that the user knows absolutely nothing about how to use the interface. Something that may seem obvious to us as designers may be totally invisible to a different type of user.
A big step towards ensuring that the questions from point two never need to be asked is to keep the design and navigation consistent. If the next button is positioned on the bottom right hand corner on the first page, keep it there. If a pop-up box for a correct answer is green, don’t make the next one blue. Consistency is key in earning the trust of the user and making it simple for them to navigate through the course.
5. Is navigation everything?
Simple answer? No. Navigation is a very important aspect of designing UX & UI for eLearning, but essentially the user is trying to complete a task rather than navigate towards a location. The navigation should be designed in a way that it compliments what the user is trying to achieve.
6. Pay attention to your daily life
A great way to approach designing experiences and interfaces is to monitor your own daily digital experiences. Simple actions like making a phone call, using a self-service checkout or surfing the Internet are all user experiences that started with the same principles that Logicearth use when designing for an eLearning course. Taking inspiration from the world around you ensures that you are staying in tune with the users emotions, as you are feeling similar emotions when interacting with your own devices.
7. On-the-go learning - be responsive!
Mobile devices are a constant in the lives of most of us nowadays and we use them for many daily tasks, from checking the news to finding directions to posting pictures of what we had for lunch. We live in a world where information is instantly accessible, anytime and anywhere. So why should the way we learn be any different? It is important to consider how mobile devices work in comparison to desktop devices. Your interactions will not always be instantly compatible with a mobile device. In some cases they will need to be tweaked in order to make them more user friendly for a smaller environment, without disrupting the flow and consistency of the design. The user will often be in a distracting environment eg. a train, café or airport, so it is important to keep the learning interface simple and to the point.
8. Use existing practices
Taking inspiration from existing apps and websites is a great way to keep your design consistent with the rest of the digital world. Figuring out what works for you goes a long way towards knowing what works for other users. Using basic web principles to form your design simply makes sense. Most people nowadays have been surfing the web for a long time and although we shouldn’t assume they know how to navigate a website, it is still a very strong basis for the design.
9. The journey never ends
At no point during UX & UI design is the job ‘done’. Designers should constantly be looking for new, innovative ways to improve the experience. Keeping ourselves updated with the latest technological developments ensures that we can put the user in the best possible position to be able to take in the information given to them.
10. And to finish - some UX design inspiration
See how great UX for eLearning works
Take a look at our Content development services to get examples of best practice in UX design for eLearning. Our Compliance solutions content make use of all of the principles talked about in this blog. Or if you would like to know how you can be more successful in your role and make a bigger impact in your organisation - read our corporate guide to digital learning.