A common question I get from my friends and family is, “Now, what exactly does it mean to be a Designer/Front-end Web Developer at a custom e-learning company?” I usually ramble on for a couple minutes, trying my best to describe exactly what I do using words and terminology that most people are unfamiliar with. They usually glaze over, nod their heads, smile, and say, “Well, that sounds cool!” knowing that they didn’t absorb one bit of the information I just told them.
So what DOES it really mean to be a designer at NogginLabs, and what part do we play in the process of producing an e-learning course? Sometimes there can be a lot of pressure on designers--we're responsible for the overall look and feel of the course. The content and functionality of a course can be killer, but if it doesn’t look good, who wants to look at it?
THE STARTING POINT
While you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, designers recognize that appearances and first impressions DO make a HUGE difference. You need to capture the user's attention right away, and how else do you do that other than at first sight? Furthermore, we are responsible for visual information, supporting graphics, and infographics. This gives designers at NogginLabs a wide range of different design tasks in every custom e-learning development project.
Designers begin with static mock-ups of how the course is going to look. Depending on the client, sometimes we have to stick close to brand standards; other times we get complete design freedom. In these initial mock-ups, we usually go into great detail of how the course is going to work and function, because these are the blueprints the programmer uses to create the functionality of the course. In these initial mock-ups, we make sure we have a strong UI/UX design so the learner intuitively understands the interface. Having a strong UI/UX is critical in e-learning. If a learner looks at a course, but can’t find the main menu, back button, or even figure out how to navigate around a page, that is BAD NEWS.
We want to make our courses visually stunning, but our bottom line is we want the leaner to learn. When designing courses, designers have to think about how the course is going to function as a whole:
- How will the modules look?
- How will the feedback look?
- How can all the content come across to the learner in the most exciting way?
Once we figure out the basic design of the course, we then go into web production.
After the programmer sets up the basic functionality of the course, the designers go in and “skin” the course using CSS/HTML (or if it’s a Flash course, we use Flash). This process of “skinning” is basically copying the look of the static mock-ups using CSS styling. We use styles like background color, font styles, margins, and transitions that are all web-compatible.
FILLING IN THE DETAILS
CSS/ HTML is not all that we do though here at Nogginlabs. A lot of our courses are animation heavy. This means we create a lot of custom animations that are great way to teach a lot of content to the learners in a fast and fun way. We also deal with a lot of custom illustrations in our courses, so many of the designers here are very talented in creating custom graphics for our courses.
Overall, custom e-learning designers are not one-trick ponies. We get a great opportunity to create cool and amazing courses, which is different from any other designer jobs out there. Of course, with the help of programmers, writers, and instructional designers (the 4 Pillars), we all get to come together to create unique courses that everyone at the company can be proud of and excited about.