Avoiding Too Much Information on e-Learning Screens

In How to Avoid Designing Cluttered eLearning Screens, I read about six tips to declutter.  I think going over these tips is an excellent place to start in learning how to design e-Learning screens.  Designing e-Learning for software applications comes with its own challenges.  In this post I go over each tip and how I think they can be applied to software e-Learning courses.  

Let’s start with the first tip, Keep Audience Needs in Mind.  With a new software rollout, it is safe to say that the learners know nearly nothing about how to use it.  True, they may have seen brief demos, but they haven’t had much hands-on experience.  Oftentimes the users are very busy and only get a few minutes spread out over the course of their workday to work through e-Learning courses.  It is for this reason that determining during the design phase which main points need to be made in the e-Learning is essential.  The audience needs short courses with enough information to understand how they will use the software.  The e-Learning also needs to contain Try Me exercises, so the learner can get hands-on experience.  See my blog post titled Guidelines for Designing Software Simulations for e-Learning for more information.

Moving forward to the second tip, Develop a Storyboard First.  Storyboards function as a play-by-play account of what each screen will contain.  I liken it to creating an outline of what you want to cover prior to writing an essay.  In software e-Learning, the storyboard should contain screenshots of the corresponding software screen, along with what areas of the software should be focused on.  Working with the SME to make sure the main points are discussed is essential.  However, don’t get caught up in the “Nice to Know” information.  Those items can be taught once the user becomes more proficient in using the software.  

The third tip in the blog is to Adopt a Less-is-More Approach to Onscreen Text.  After all, if you have a full-screen image of the software plus additional text on top of it, that can be very distracting for the learner and cause difficulty in deciphering the information presented.  I think it would be much better to use smaller images of the software with a pan/zoom effect that focuses on the area of the software related to that e-Learning topic.  Using smaller images surrounded with a little white space of the screen would have a better visual effect.

Now let’s go over the fourth tip:  Provide information in Layers. My thought is that it would be disastrous to design a linear course where everything is covered from start to finish, and all learners must go through all the content.  It would be better to cover the basics while providing branching of the content that allows learners to explore additional software functions.  Allow the learners to drill down to explore the content.  This is essential in creating e-Learning for complicated software that is new to the learners

I have already hinted at the fifth tip, Incorporate Breathing Space, earlier in this post.  The author of the referenced post states that the solution is more white space on the screen.  They go on to state that you should aim for balance and harmony.  Too much white space can make the screen look barren.  While too little can give an appearance of a cluttered screen.  You should try to find that middle space where objects and text look balanced on the screen.

The final tip is to Keep Visuals Simple.  The author suggests using fewer colors on the screen.  Too many colors that clash can wreak havoc for the learner.  The distractions of a busy background can overpower whatever it is you are trying to achieve on the screen.  I’ve seen software that already has many different colors built in.  This presents a challenge, but I think the solution (as stated earlier) is smaller images of the software surrounded by a little white space.

Feel free to share any additional tips you may have.  I’d love to hear them!  Please enter your comments below or contact me to share.

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