Designing for Our Future

Three UX Design basics to remember

After reading Tom Petro’s blog, Are We In This Virtually Forever?, I started thinking further into the future than I had in months. As Tom pointed out, almost everything that could be moved to an online platform has moved. A lot of industries and schools are now remote, movie premiers and concerts are streaming online, yoga and dance classes are on Zoom, museum and gallery tours are conducted virtually… it goes on and on and on… is everyone sick of their screens yet?

This is exactly why User Experience (UX) design is so critical. With so much time being spent interacting in the digital realm, it’s important that you’re not the cause of any unwanted and unnecessary stress when designing anything that’s user-facing.

Good and Bad UX Design

I know UX design is kind of a geeky term. So, what exactly is UX design and how does it impact learners?

User Experience” (UX) encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

The Definition of User Experience (UX)

Most likely, everyone has had a bad user experience, especially now when we’re more online than ever before. Here’s an example of bad UX design we’ve all probably encountered — contact information that’s impossible to locate.

After scrolling through long drop-down menus, searching for hidden navigation, being bombarded with too much text on the screen, and encountering a video you didn’t click that starts auto-playing, you finally find how to contact the company. This is super frustrating to say the least and also gives you a negative first impression of the company.

Now, with that in mind, consider how UX design can impact learning. It’s imperative, and really quite easy, to incorporate good UX design principles into your work flow no matter what your role is in the training process.

Three Actions to Take

Here are three basic actions to take when designing e-learning or a learning portal to facilitate the user experience:

  1. Set up a clear primary goal for learners. Establishing a clear call to action ensures learners know exactly what their purpose is from the start. A clear primary goal can also help designers and developers stay focused when it comes to making decisions about objectives and planning.
  2. Reduce clutter. It’s easy for subject matter experts to think every sentence, graph, and statistic is essential, but trust me, they aren’t. Extraneous material should be leveraged for performance support resources, such as a job aid, glossary, appendix, etc. Most text should be reduced to a scanning length, because learners only skim through online content and simply won’t read long prose. White space should be an essential part of any UX design. Not only does it look more professional, it’s less stressful to learners and helps them focus. In general, keep in mind the “less is more” approach.
  3. Be consistent. Ensure that you’re staying consistent within your own work and also with what most learners are used to seeing. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when clear standards have already been established and most learners are familiar with these standards. For example, most of us are used to seeing navigation menus in certain locations on a website. Let’s not try to one-up years of engineering and science to only end up confusing learners.

While these three actions merely scrape the surface of the UX design topic, they can easily be applied to learning projects and deliverables. While I definitely don’t know what the world will look like in 10 years, I’m hopeful we can all do our part to make it less frustrating and keep the virtual realm as accessible as possible.

Bonus! If you’d like to learn more about this topic, the Nielsen Norman Group has an extensive library of easily digestible articles and has been an invaluable resource for me when thinking about UX design.

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