user experienceI had a bad user experience (UX) at a dollar store a while back. I’m not talking about customer service, but actual UX design. I swiped my card into the card reader to pay. A prompt told me to click “Enter,” with an arrow pointing at one of the buttons. It’s a good thing I stopped, because the button the arrow pointed to wasn’t the enter button. It was on the other end of the keypad.

In a nutshell, UX is how someone interacts with something, usually technology. This doesn’t include the content, it’s just about “how it works.” For instance, the UX of reading a book includes opening the cover to get to the text, turning the pages to see more text, and closing the cover when you’re done reading. This is true of all books, regardless of what each book is about. Good UX design hardly ever gets mentioned because it’s not meant to attract attention.

So when something doesn’t work the way we expect it to, it’s annoying and we tend to not like the product or service in question. That’s definitely not the feeling any association wants its learners to have when they’re taking eLearning. If your learners do notice the UX of a course, that’s probably not a good thing. Their “noticing” probably comes in the form of complaints.
Let’s take a look at some best practices you can use to keep your eLearning user-friendly.

Keep Navigation in the Same Place

If the navigation buttons, links to the menu, and so on are not in the same place on each screen the learner has to go looking for them. This is frustrating and wastes time.

Make the learner aware of any navigation changes that do take place. If a course has multiple sections and they each handle navigation differently, for example, you should let the learner know.

Give the Learner Cues When They Need to Interact

If the course expects the learner to do something, but the learner doesn’t know that, there’s a problem. Use prompts, highlights, checklists, hints, and tooltips to point them in the right direction. Having a hand cursor appear over interactive objects and underlining text to indicate links is also helpful.

Show Them Their Progress

If a learner doesn’t know how well they’re doing or how much of the course is left they’ll probably get discouraged. Sometimes an overall progress indicator, like percent complete, is enough. Other times, it’s better to have something more detailed like a topic structure so the learner can see where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going.

Test for Quality, Then Revise if Needed

If you roll out the best eLearning your association has ever had but it doesn’t work correctly it won’t do anyone any good. Have someone who wasn’t involved with the project “play through” the course. They’ll probably find things like typos, broken links, and confusing parts that didn’t stand out to the project team. This is normal. Spell check isn’t perfect and a new set of eyes will always see things differently. You should test the course on multiple web browsers and, if it’s mobile, on multiple types of devices. Revise as necessary and then confirm that the fixes work before releasing the course.

Provide Support Options

If a learner gets stuck they’re going to have questions. Consider providing a support e-mail address or phone number. Or you may want to add a “Help” or “FAQ” screen to the course itself.

Giving your learners a streamlined UX is important, regardless of the content you’re teaching. If the “how it works” annoys them they probably aren’t going to stick around. So, it’s up to you and your association to think about the UX when you’re developing eLearning. Do you have any (un)fun UX stories to share? They don’t have to be restricted to eLearning, feel free to include things like the mislabeled card reader I ran into.

If you’d like to learn more about custom eLearning course creation from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.

If you’d like to read more about instructional design best practices, check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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