Learning is UX deep: The importance of user experience in learning tools
Social Media Co. Twitter recently responded to user feedback to the changes that it's making to Explore, Search, Notifications and Moments features with a view to improving the User Experience (UX). According to Keith Coleman, Twitter’s Vice President of Product, “It’ll be easier to find and follow the big events and stories you care about in your timeline, Notifications and Explore. Also, there’s a new look and feel for Moments showing everything you’d want to see.” While it isn’t surprising that even a popular social networking tool like Twitter that already has millions of users hooked in the 280-character space and hashtags pays attention to the user responses, what does seem surprising is the level of attention it gives to the whole ‘feel-good’ factor.
But then again, social media sites just as Apps (abbreviation for Applications) are all about the experience, right? But not just the emotional element, it's the whole nine yards of interaction, ease of use and the overall experience that the user takes home after using the app or the product or the website, whatever be the case. All of which is bound to one specific term, the User Experience or UX (often confused with User Interface (UI), which is actually a series of screens, pages, and visual elements that one uses to interact with a device).
While UX may play a relatively small part in attracting the users, it plays a crucial role when it comes to user retention. No wonder then that UX has become the key to making or breaking the success of almost anything and everything that involves user interaction. And learning-related apps/ tools are no exception.
The Impression Factor
Research states that “it only takes 50 milliseconds for users to form a first impression of your website.” To think that it would be any different for software or learning content or a Learning Management System (LMS) would be nothing but wishful thinking. This aspect of UX greatly hinges on the UI rather than usability.
UI, as mentioned earlier, is more about the outward appearance and overall feel (or design) of the business app or the LMS. The final visual design can influence the user’s/ learner’s behavior and hence is considered as a critical aspect of the UI design. The point to note here is that visual design isn’t just about using the best graphics or colors or icons or fonts but is about the complete appearance when all these come together and the kind of interaction that the users will have with it.
The UX Trends 2018 report by Zorraquino, puts the impression factor under a broader term - ‘Humanization,’ which in eLearning parlance falls closer to "Personalization." According to Henry Dreyfuss, Author of the Book-Designing for People, “When the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed. On the other hand, if people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient - or just plain happier - by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded.”
The first point of contact for software/LMS is the UI, hence it becomes the singular driver behind making or breaking a deal. But, the UI would hardly help if the components fail. So, it also weighs down on familiar, easy to navigate interface design, uncluttered dashboard and other aspects that the learners are accustomed to. For instance, the arrangement of categories, the navigation flow, the number of clicks required to access the learning content, etc. are different ways that engage the users, irrespective of their demographic or technical know-how.
The Connection Factor
How well does an app/ LMS/ software connect with the users? The real experience that it provides and the influence in terms of behavioral change that is the end result of the learning process. In other words, it is all about the usability and relevance. The 'connection' basically hinges on what it provides.
Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing, says, "What good is content if it doesn't create a great user experience, right?” While content sure influences the final verdict, the connection usually is built through the UX. And as mentioned in an article, “UX is the new relevance – or, at least, is a container for relevance, just as much as it is a container for content.”
Another aspect is the actual 'interaction.' As experts state, “it doesn’t matter how creatively designed your site is or how optimized your content is if your target audience is not able to efficiently interact with it.” When it comes to business tools or learning technology, irrespective of the UI, the user can feel disconnected if the content is irrelevant and the features non-functional. And that's not all. The evaluation of LMS/ software UX also includes feature testing and cross-evaluating it with the training needs too. Even the choice to purchase an LMS is greatly influenced by it.
According to the LMS Industry User Research Report, by Capterra, “Customers primarily choose LMS software based on functionality (53%), price (32%), support (5%), corporate status (3%), and software reputation (3%).” While basic functionality and UI lays the foundation, features add value and enhance the connect. For instance, multi-language delivery, offline mode, etc. can connect well with a global audience. Innovative features and impressive design can be the unique selling point in the in today's fast-paced digital world.
The Recommendation Factor
Who recommends what? When does a business software/ learning technology get self-endorsed? The role of UX/ UI is often to deliver an optimized design and experience to the users that result in their satisfaction. Further, a well-designed, easy to understand business software/ LMS, allows users/ learners to spend more time on the actual learning process rather than toggling between pages or being stuck in the maze. This, in turn, reduces unnecessary loss of time and acts as the confidence-building factor too. This confidence later translates as recommendations wherein champions, thought leaders, business partners, and peers use their voice/ vote to recommend a particular learning platform. The millennials lead the referral crew, mostly through social media.
According to McKinsey, a small number of influencers are accountable for the lion’s share of referrals brands receive via social media. According to research by Digital Intelligence Today, “92% of people stated that while making a purchase they are influenced by their peers.” So much for the merit in a recommendation that eLearning Industry, the largest online community of eLearning professionals in the industry, publishes a Top 20 LMS list based on User Experience (as of culmination of System Usability Score, Perceived Usefulness & Net Promoter Score) every year.
But, that’s not all. Along with UX, transparency about privacy, tracking and the data security provided too can work in favor of the learning technology tools. So, being a crowd favorite might not be that hard after all.
The Repeat Factor
More than anything else, the UX determines whether or not the users are retained and whether they choose to return. In the case of training, it becomes more relevant, as many courses require periodic revisions and additive learning too. Take, for instance, certain certifications that have to be renewed year after year. With a good UX, the learners tend to prefer the same delivery system, and also the existing data helps in setting reminders, sending push notifications and even additional information if required.
While UI can be the reason to draw in the users, a good UX can also help in retention and renewals too. Not just that, UX also tends to be a factor that increases the returns in terms of investments. Research from Forrester shows that, on average, "every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return. That’s an ROI of 9,900%".
Business/ learning technology are all result oriented, however with the above-mentioned influence of UX, the efforts and strategies should also focus on allowing the users to have a positive experience. As UX essentially holds power to make or break the entire strategy. While the designing and developing the LMS/ business tool, it becomes crucial to keep the UX in mind - right from the start. Because after all, as Joel Marsch, Author of UX for Beginners, says, “UX is a lot more than buttons and wireframes. The stuff that seems obvious is only the tip of the iceberg, and the stuff that matters most is completely invisible. In fact, the design is only one of the 5 main ingredients of UX: psychology, usability, design, copywriting, analysis.”