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How UX Principles Guide eLearning Experiences: 3 Pillars of Design

User experience (UX) design plays a crucial role in creating engaging and effective eLearning platforms. It's important to consider the three pillars of UX design – visual design, interaction design, and information architecture – to ensure learners have a positive and effective learning experience. In this article, we'll explore how each of these pillars can be applied to eLearning.

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Have you ever found yourself lost and confused while trying to navigate through an online course? Maybe you’re struggling to figure out what to click next, or the course material just doesn’t seem to flow in a logical order. It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like you’re not making progress, even though you’re putting in the time and effort. 

Chances are, it’s not your fault. The truth is, not all online courses are well-designed, and it can be tough to stay engaged and motivated when the user experience is poor.

Ever heard of a Norman Door?

 

Refresher: User Experience


User experience (UX) is a critical aspect of designing and developing effective eLearning. UX principles help to ensure that learners experience the least amount of friction throughout their learning journey. Characteristics of good UX design include:

This is about putting the user’s needs and preferences at the forefront of the design process. This principle involves gathering feedback from users and using that feedback to inform design decisions. When applied to eLearning, user-centred design means creating courses that cater to the needs of the learners. This may involve using interactive features, providing clear navigation, and incorporating multimedia content to keep learners engaged.

Consistency is an essential UX principle that refers to using the same design elements throughout the eLearning solution. Consistency helps to create a sense of familiarity and predictability for learners. This principle can be applied to eLearning using consistent layouts, fonts, and colours across all pages. Additionally, consistent navigation and interaction patterns help learners to navigate the platform quickly and efficiently.

May also be interpreted as intuitiveness, this is about keeping the eLearning platform simple and easy to use. This principle involves avoiding clutter and unnecessary elements that can distract learners. When designing eLearning courses, it’s important to keep the content focused and easy to understand. Simple and clear instructions, concise text, and well-designed graphics can help learners to focus on the content and absorb the information more easily.

Accessibility is a key UX principle that ensures the eLearning platform is accessible to all users, including those with special needs or disabilities. This principle involves designing courses that are compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers, keyboard-only navigation, and closed captioning. Additionally, ensuring that the content is accessible to users with different levels of technical and comprehensive ability can help to increase engagement and participation.

Feedback is an essential UX principle that helps learners to track their progress and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Providing regular feedback can motivate learners and encourage them to continue learning. Feedback can be provided through quizzes, interactive exercises, and progress reports. Additionally, allowing learners to provide feedback on the course can help to improve the experience in future iterations.

A Mental Model for UX Design

Don’t get us wrong. UX is a vast field of disciplines spanning psychology, computer science, sociology, sound engineering, solution design, and the creative arts. You can see the separate domains in the image below.

However, for our purposes, we are going to examine three pillars that each paint a distinct feature of user experience design: visual design, interaction design, and information architecture.

Visual Design

Visual design is the first pillar of UX design and involves creating an aesthetically pleasing interface that engages learners. The visual design of an eLearning platform should be consistent and appealing to keep learners engaged. Applying visual hierarchy to the content can help learners to focus on the most important information. Consistent use of fonts, colours, and images can help to create a cohesive and engaging design. Additionally, visual aids like videos, infographics, and animations can help to explain complex concepts and make the learning experience more engaging.

Interaction Design

Interaction design is the second pillar of UX design and focuses on creating intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces. Interaction design involves designing buttons, menus, and other interactive elements that are easy to understand and use. Applying the principle of affordance can help to create intuitive interfaces that allow learners to easily identify interactive elements. Microinteractions, such as hover states and animations, can add a layer of engagement to the interface and improve the overall learning experience.

According to the NielsenNormanGroup:

Microinteractions are trigger-feedback pairs in which (1) the trigger can be a user action or an alteration in the system’s state; (2) the feedback is a narrowly targeted response to the trigger and is communicated through small, highly contextual (usually visual) changes in the user interface.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the third pillar of UX design and focuses on organising and presenting information in a clear and logical manner. Applying information architecture principles to eLearning involves structuring content in a way that is easy to navigate and understand. Grouping related content together, using clear and concise language, and providing easy-to-use navigation menus can all help to create a clear and effective information architecture. Additionally, providing search functionality can help learners quickly find the information they need.

In an article about information architecture on websites, which we think can also apply to eLearning courses, Klancar (2022) writes,

“…the information architect can begin optimizing the IA using these 8 principles:

  1. The principle of objects: Content should be treated as a living, breathing thing. It has lifecycles, behaviors, and attributes.
  2. The principle of choices: Less is more. Keep the number of choices to a minimum.
  3. The principle of disclosure: Show a preview of information that will help users understand what kind of information is hidden if they dig deeper.
  4. The principle of exemplars: Show examples of content when describing the content of the categories.
  5. The principle of front doors: Assume that at least 50% of users will use a different entry point than the home page.
  6. The principle of multiple classifications: Offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content.
  7. The principle of focused navigation: Keep navigation simple and never mix different things.
  8. The principle of growth: Assume that the content on the website will grow. Make sure the website is scalable.”

The Final Word

The next time you’re feeling frustrated and lost while trying to navigate an eLearning platform, remember that it’s not you. UX design plays a crucial role in creating an engaging and effective learning experience. By keeping the principles of visual design, interaction design, and information architecture in mind, you can better understand what makes a well-designed eLearning platform and how to navigate through it more effectively. If all else fails, use that time to audit the experience and learn from observation. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to make the most out of your next eLearning build. Happy building!

We are Strawberry Solutions

We are Australia’s leading content creators for the education industry. We can help your business develop innovative new learning experiences to inspire minds like never before. We’ll help bring your lessons to life. We work with a range of clients from K-12, RTOs, higher education, corporate learning and development to the government. Our team consists of a talented crew of graphic designers, instructional designers, animators, video editors, voiceover artists and eLearning developers who create sophisticated, multimedia SCORM output. 

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