If you’re browsing a website or playing a video game, you’re encountering a user interface (UI), and it can make or break your experience. Put simply, the UI consists of the visual and written elements that direct users and also allow them to interact with a screen. A well-designed UI, because it’s clear and intuitive, often does not call attention to itself. This is essential to high-functioning e-learning.
Learners should be immersed in the content and focused on attaining learning objectives, not devoting their energy to figuring out how to open the menu or advance the screen. An unclear or inefficient UI becomes a barrier rather than a bridge. For an everyday example, let’s look at the world of streaming video services for a couple of examples of the good and bad of UI.
It’s easy to spend time browsing Netflix online—sometimes for longer than you might spend watching whatever you end up selecting. Believe it or not, that speaks well of the UI. It’s simple to cruise the online library, to move across categories, to see what is recommended for you (and why), and to add or remove things from your personalized list. Seamless scrolling and simple prompts guide users through the content. It isn’t the vastness of the Netflix library that leads to users spending so much time browsing it; it’s the ease of its use. Interacting with the UI is part of the pleasure of Netflix online—almost as much as watching the videos themselves.
A counter-example is Amazon Video’s UI (at least as I encounter it on my Samsung Smart TV). While it too has a vast library and compelling original programming, it’s a chore to move through the site. The home screen itself is a crowded collage of images and categories—all of which pull you into sub-screens only to rudely dump you back into the home screen again. You can easily lose your place in the library. For example, when going through a list of new releases, every time you add one to your own watchlist, you are placed back at the beginning of the list you were previously browsing. This means scrolling through what could be many screens you’ve already seen just to get back to where you left off. You can easily back out of categories and selections by accident, too, adding to the frustration. While Amazon’s library is comparable to that of Netflix, the UI just isn’t in the same league.
The same lessons apply to e-learning. At NogginLabs, our designers, content producers, and programmers work together to give learners the best possible experience. Through the use of intuitive navigational elements, clear directional text, and a streamlined design, we make sure that UI facilitates our content in the best way possible. Whether we’re making a retail simulation or a mobile product-knowledge piece, we make sure the learner is the star.