User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are intimately connected. In fact, it is the user interface that determines what experience a user has with software/programs with which he is interacting. Good UI will provide what is called a “user-friendly” experience, one that lets the user interact with a piece of software in easily and intuitively.
This is all related to the design. And specifically with educational and training software, user interface is everything. No one wants a learner to struggle to figure out where to go, what to do next, or how to find something. The entire learning experience should be seamless, so that focus can be placed on the learning objectives and activities.
So, what are the most critical features of UI design that will provide the perfect experience for learners? Here are five of them.
Simplicity means that the interface is completely clear, intuitive, and one that helps users do what they want. Crowding pages and burying important information among lots of other stuff only serves to confuse and make a user work harder. You may have lot of information to impart, but it must be spaced out properly.
Learners have preferences for devices, and they also may engage in their online learning in a variety of places – on their office computers, on their laptops or tablets while at home, and on their phones while commuting. Design must honor all of these devices, so that, no matter what the device, the interface remains clear and stable.
Walls of text are not “friendly.” But here’s the thing. Users do scan through content with the same types of eye movements that they use when they do read.
This means they will move from the top left to the top right, and then down to the bottom left, if there is not a lot on a page. If there is more content on a page, there will be the typical zig-zag movement when reading.
It also appears, from several studies, that users key in on headlines, captions and then move on to any graphical features on a page.
All of this data should inform UI designers as they place the most important features of content.
It is the navigation that allows users to move through content in an organized and logically structured way. The main page should have links to all key pages or categories.
According to Creative Brand Design Studio, nothing trumps navigation when it comes to solid UI. It is the one area of a page that users will see before they scroll through the content. And it is the area they will continue to come back to when they are looking for where to go for other information.
The best practices of designing excellent navigation are as follows:
- Use descriptive labels in your navigation. Relevant terms will not only guide users better, but help search engines rank your content accordingly as well.
- Provide a tour on how to navigate your course. A simple, screencast video explaining the basics and highlighting important functions (exit, save progress, help section etc) should do the trick.
- Be consistent with the placement of navigational links to avoid confusing the learners, and forcing them to search for the right action instead of staying focused on the experience.
- Test, test, test. Run multiple trials of your navigation before releasing the course to ensure that no errors are present.
Appealing Visual Images
Anytime a designer can “say” something with an image rather than words, he “wins.” And the user wins too. Images attract attention, and if they provide learning content, all the better. Infographics, timelines, interactive activities, and such will engage users. And when they are engaged, they will retain what they are learning.
Education and training programs have one goal – learner mastery. It’s why they are designed, and it’s why businesses and institutions use them. If learners are to be able to focus on what they are to absorb, do, and master, they need to have a friendly and seamless experience as the move through the presented content and complete activities. What they don’t need is confusion, huge walls of text, issues with navigation, and pages that lack logical visual hierarchies. If UI design heeds these hacks, then the learner experience will be pleasant and engaging.
Independant inbound marketing consultant with 5+ years in the industry, including coaching and developing e-learning courses. Bylines at the Huffington Post, Tech Cocktail, Hackerspace by Lifehacker among others.