Three tips for improving navigation in e-learning
If you’re like us, you spend hours upon hours designing your e-learning course to make sure it looks great, but do you spend as much time making sure it runs great? While it’s true that everyone prefers a course that is easy on the eyes, it doesn’t do anyone any good if that course is not easy to use.
When users can’t navigate a course, it’s only a matter of time before they give up, and when that happens, all of your hard work is for naught.
In 1988, Donald A. Norman published The Design of Everyday Things, a book that makes a simple yet groundbreaking claim: there is no such thing as a dumb user, only poor design. This concept has since become one of the basic tenants of design, but it’s one that we sometimes forget to consider in web design.
Still, e-learning courses are no exception, and if you’re not creating courses that are easy to use, you’re not creating good courses. The good news is that there are ways to improve. While you may never come up with the perfect course, you can make sure you’re constantly improving by following these steps.
Know Your User
Good design empowers users. So, before you can design something that will be perfect for them, you need to sit down and really get to know their needs. Create custom training solutions tailored to the needs of your clients. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits all model, and each course you build should start from the ground.
Think about the people who will be taking the course you’re designing. Where are they from? What is their education level? How long have they been working in this job? All of these things should influence the way you design your course.
It should go without saying that a course for business tycoons in Japan should look and operate differently than a course for high school students at their after-school job, but sometimes we overlook those differences.
This article from elearningindustry.com points out that simple things like the icons you use should be carefully chosen with your user in mind. The example they give is a ‘thumbs up’ icon. While in some cultures is a clear sign of affirmation, it means nothing to users in other parts of the world. If you take the time to think about your users’ needs, you can avoid many of these kinds of mistakes.
Orient Your User
Once you’ve considered the needs of your users, you can begin creating the course. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, there are a few simple things you can do to make almost any course easier to use. Usability.gov has some great tips for how to make sure the elements of your course facilitate “task completion, efficiency, and satisfaction.”
Make it simple for your user to gauge where they are in the course. Road maps are a great option that allows you to create a visual representation of each step of the training to show what the user has already completed, what they’re working on right now, and how much is left before they complete the course. This information helps set the user at ease and allows them to focus on the task at hand rather than wonder how much time is left.
It’s also important that you give clear instructions for every activity. Things that seem obvious to you may be completely new to some of your users, so go ahead and point out the navigational tools, such as the ‘back’ and ‘next’ arrows or menu buttons.
Then make sure that those tools are consistently in the same place on each page and have the same appearance. When you’re consistent with the placement and design of these items, navigating the course will become intuitive for your users.
Get Feedback From Your User
Getting feedback after you’ve delivered the course is one of the most important steps for good design, but it’s one of the easiest to overlook. It’s important to know what did and did not work well for your users so that next time around, you can create an even better course.
When looking at feedback, try to find trends. Don’t focus on one grumpy user or one little bug. Instead, spend your time looking for broad strokes and things that will be useful to you in the future.
Never underestimate the power of feedback. It’s a resource that will almost certainly make you better at your job. Even after you’ve done everything you could think to make a great course, your users will have helpful insights.
When you create a course that is easy to navigate, your users are free to spend more of their energy on learning. There’s a big payoff when you take the time to make sure that your course is intuitive. With this model, you can continue to enhance your ability with every single course you create.
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Blake Beus is a Director of Learning Solutions with extensive experience in healthcare and financial services. What Blake enjoys most about his role at AllenComm is helping organizations implement initiatives that have a real impact on the business.