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UX design

UX design in learning: combining substance and form

For years now, digital has been firmly rooted in our lives. For us end users, interfaces are its ultimate embodiment. As users’ digital gateway to communicate with the program they are using, interfaces have imposed their codes but, over time, they have also had to adapt to user requirements. UX design covers concepts of ergonomics and usability. This domain aims to think services by placing the user at the heart of the reflection, thus increasing their involvement when browsing a software.

Arrival and definition

We have all had bad experiences with UX design. How many users wishing to perform a simple photo editing task have come up against an unwelcoming interface when opening their photo editing software for the first time? With the generalization of digital, it quickly became necessary to make user interactions with the tool easier.

Apple had already understood this back in 1984, when the company unveiled to the world Mac OS Classic, an operating system to equip their new personal computer: the Macintosh. They innovated by offering a graphical interface that allows the user to exchange command lines for simple mouse clicks on visual elements: everything is designed so the user communicates with his machine intuitively. Subsequently, the application of UX design in our digital tools has made it possible over the years to make computing accessible to the largest number of people.

When user experience comes into play in learning

While UX design increases the handling and understanding of digital learning tools, it also helps to develop an affinity with them. Often at the heart of the subject: learning platforms or Learning Management Systems (LMS). Recently, we have talked about Learning Engagement Platforms (LEP) or Learning eXperience Platforms (LXP) for those which focus on user engagement and experience. In theory, these are no longer platforms just hosting learning content. The adoption of a UX design approach therefore requires the implementation of learning paths, progress reports, user follow-up over time…

A minimalist and clean design is often chosen to enhance the attention of the user when performing an action, as opposed to a platform with an overloaded interface that could distract the user. The use of a learning platform must then consist of the clearest and most intuitive experience possible. In UX design, affordance defines the ability of an interface to evoke its use and function. It is important to guide the user by highlighting the actions to be prioritized: this is the hierarchy of actions. For example, a reminder on a key concept (safety procedure, regulatory knowledge…) will be the element promoted on the learner’s page, thus guiding the user through the learning process.

To gain clarity and ease of use, design patterns are essential. These are models that allow you to represent the same type of interaction in the same way. In terms of user experience, for example, a website which changes the design of a button on every page would obviously lose consistency and create confusion for the user. It is therefore important to provide solutions that look familiar and whose interaction is expected. Clearly, we will choose to keep the essentials, contextualize and clarify the interactions between the user and the learning platform.

Learner experience

The core target of this approach is first and foremost the learner. A well-thought-out interface makes learners’ experience more fluid and improves the impacts of their learning. For example, increasing learners’ readability on their learning path allows them to better visualize the key stages of their learning. We can see that giving them visibility on their future learning actions increases their motivation.

One of the crucial points of a good user experience is feedback. When a user performs an action, he expects feedback from the interface, otherwise some frustration is generated and the experience is immediately damaged.  Conversely, the more users feel that an interface communicates an action, the more they feel confident. By providing feedback to learners on their interactions with the learning platform, we increase their engagement significantly.

In the same way, offering a consistent and relevant follow-up on their evolution on the platform will encourage learners to become more involved. This is where gamification comes in. In the world of video games, some mechanisms for increasing user engagement have proven their worth. Providing a system of points, rewards or challenges brings a playful dimension to learning and makes users feel that they are really involved in their learning process: they are better engaged and their chances of returning to the tool increase. Some driver assistance and GPS navigation platforms have understood this: they encourage the user to perform actions via a gamified interface, making him want to interact more frequently with the interface. This type of practices have proven effective over time and more and more platforms are using gamification to enhance their learning experience.

L&D team

On the other hand, providing information to L&D teams on the activities carried out within the platform seems to be a matter of course. The implementation of intuitive and relevant dashboards is essential. To do this, it is good practice to use the UX design principles mentioned above and integrate clear data visualizations.

However, representing data is a real art and we are forced to admit that we are often dealing with confusing or simply irrelevant graphs. From the user perspective, making the whole message understandable requires telling a story with the data. Indeed, to display analytics on the learning content or the actions performed by learners in a learning session, it is necessary to contextualize, eliminate overload and guide the user’s attention towards what is most important in your data representation.

Using data to convey a message or information is based on the same principles as classic UX design and brings real added value to users’ experience while allowing them to observe the results of their actions on the platform.

Conclusion

The application of UX design methods is important for the design of any type of interface and becomes essential when it comes to learning platforms. The platform must provide the learner with a clear and comfortable use, as the user experience is critical to their concentration, understanding and engagement. 

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