Learning Experience As a User Experience

Pictures of woman eating pizza with wine at a restaurant.

Update: Would this be Training Experience As a User Experience?

Pictures of woman eating pizza with wine at a restaurant. I read an article a while ago about user experience design likened to an experience at a restaurant, unfortunately I can’t find it, but I’ll give you the gist of it with my own twist:

It feels so satisfying when you go to a restaurant and everything is beautifully orchestrated. From the moment you arrive the host guides you graciously to your table as if he knew exactly when you’d be arriving.

You are pleased to find that your table has a beautiful ocean view from the second floor. The table is pleasantly situated with a bouquet of flowers fresh and sweet, candle flickering near by.

Your waiter promptly arrives to take your drink order and go over the specials for the day, everything sounds so delicious. As you decided what to order, the waiter is there at your side ready. There is not waiting, the service is tailored just for you as if you are the only one in the restaurant.

As a faint piano draws a calming mood over your meal, you enjoy the food with regular check ins from the waiter to make sure you are attended to properly, but not too much as to get annoying. After enjoying your meal and soaking in the atmosphere a bit more, you ask for your check which is promptly there waiting for you.

The night has gone smoothly without a second of waiting and everything you need tended to within minutes. Everything is in its place, the mood of the restaurant feels complete, and the gentle tunes top it off.

Make sure your user is experiencing this flawless and complete experience with every last detail thought through. What your user might need next should already be anticipated, ready, and waiting.

This is how I want to learn: what I need, when I need it, just enough to fill me up and get me going again after I’ve had enough.

Translate That Into a Great Learning Experience

It would be great if everyone taking a course is doing it of their own free will. It might happen somewhere, but we have to assume they’re forced to take training, or at least strongly encouraged to take it.

Because the user is probably not looking forward to taking the course you created, it’s up to us to craft a course that at least makes it more pleasant for them.

Here’s where we can tap into the ability of user experience design. Instructional Designers are great at focusing on organizing and designing a learning experience, but that doesn’t always lead to a good user experience.

The first question I like to ask is “where does the user’s experience begin?”

From the beginning when the user is told they must take this mandatory course to the completion of the course, there has to be a seamless experience that is transparent every step of the way.

If you can get beyond the user losing interest the second the word mandatory is uttered, then you are in good shape, but just to make sure, it’s a good idea to focus on the entire process.

Content is a great place to start but it’s not the entire picture. Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself:

  1. What happens to the user before they even get to the content you’ve designed?
  2. How does your course look when it’s published? Are there menu’s around it, other elements that might confuse the learner?
  3. Is the navigation intuitive and standard or does it need explanation?
  4. Does the learner know when they have completed the course or if they need to do something else?
  5. What happens after the learner is done? Do they have to close the browser, a pop-up, click a finish button?

I’m sure the questions could keep on going, but these are things you absolutely must answer and the final solutions should be seamless to the user. Ideally they won’t even know they left their company intranet.

There’s nothing worse than having the course open in a pop-up window, completing a good amount of it, thinking you’re finished so you close the window only to find out you didn’t click a finish button.

That’s exactly how you don’t want the user to experience your course.

Our Responsibility

Make sure the user can get to a course with as few hurdles as possible. If they access it on a Learning Management System, how many clicks does it take them to get there. I’d hope it takes no more than three clicks, at least that should be the goal.

If there’s a problem with how users are accessing the content I’ve created, it’s my responsibility to figure out how to improve that process. If I can’t change it, I need to find who can and discuss my plan with them.

Learning Management Systems are great for providing options and reporting, but they can get confusing. Always remember that the user isn’t in there every day, it’s confusing, try to see it from their perspective.

As a user looking for a course, I want to see the course. It should be front and center with everything else falling to the background. I don’t want to see a huge stack of links on both sides, banners, or any other clutter, just what I need and when I need it.

Make sure the user knows they’re still on the same site. It’s never pleasant to wonder where the link I just clicked took me, or have to try to figure out if I need to close a tab, windows, or pop-up. It’s aggravating to a user when they close a course only to find out they just lost it all.

Create a Beginning-to-End Experience

When designing a learning experience, it needs to be thought of as just that, an experience. From the users first awareness that they’re taking a course, mandatory or not, this is their experience. It should be a flawless experience with the whole thing thought through, nothing pieced together from different times of creation.

Having to leave a normal workflow to get to a course breaks the user experience. The look and feel should be the same no matter where the user is. Navigation shouldn’t be lost, and the user should always know on which site they are.

Here are some of the things that could be done to ensure a great user experience:

  1. Ask questions from the users perspective.
  2. Create use cases for various paths the user might get to your course and navigate through it.
  3. Regularly ask yourself the purpose of what you’re putting in your course.
  4. Does what you’re doing make the users experience easier? Always ask this question.

Keep asking questions and putting yourself in the place of the user, make sure it’s a process you would be happy going through.

Keep in mind also that it’s sometimes the small things that matter.

Add to the Learning Experience

I read about user experience almost every day, and I learn something new every day.

One thing I’ve learned is that I can never learn enough and there’s always more to discuss.

Can you add anything to the discussion how user experience influences Instructional Design?

I’d love to hear from you so please join into the discussion below.

Remember, a perfect night out is another way to learn how to pay attention to the user experience. Strive to meet and exceed the expectations of the user and be attentive to their needs.