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The importance of user experience in multi-device learning

User experience (UX) is nothing new. It’s something that graphic and instructional designers have factored into their work for years. UX is what a person feels when interacting with a product, service or, in our case, learning.

It was much easier to judge when the interaction between a user and e-learning existed solely on a desktop computer. The static mode of delivery meant that designers could think more about what a course looked like. UX isn’t concerned with graphics, technology or the user alone. It’s about how each of these things can be used to let the user take control of their experience without feeling lost or out of control.

Here are just a few important factors that are easily taken for granted when learning is designed to be accessed across multiple devices.

Simplicity

It is easy to over-engineer an idea and potentially confuse your audience. If it’s kept simple, users are likely to understand what they are seeing and what is required of them. Take a website for example – terms like ‘home’, ‘about us’, and ‘portfolio’ more often than not appear on a website to help us find what we want. We all understand where the icon of a house will take us, regardless of if it’s found on the web, within a game or as part of the navigation in an e-learning course. There is no learning curve as to where this will take us, or what the trash can to the right of it might be used for. It’s not a case of being predictable, it’s about using the repetition of gestures and icons to avoid reinventing the wheel every time we interact with a new app or webpage.

A translatable experience

If you are going to change devices while carrying out a task or using the same application, it’s crucial that each time you pick one up, you go to the same place that you left off from. If every time you used a new device, you struggled to find your emails or to access the web, you’d get very confused. It follows on from keeping things simple; if there were different interactions, icons and terms used in the same service across devices, they would instantly leave the audience unstuck. Multi-device learning would completely fall down if another learning curve is involved every time a new device is used. After all, it’s supposed to make things easier for us, not harder.

Stick to your strengths

An experience should be translatable, but it shouldn’t just be the same across devices. UX is about giving users the best experience on each device, rather than providing a standardised one across all. How a webpage looks on a PC and on a tablet will differ, but how they should differ, however, is something that is still taking shape. Websites are often built with desktop use in mind and will adapt to devices as they need to, giving you the same content stacked up in one column. When you access banking or shopping sites on a device, you will usually be asked if you would like to download the app for that particular service. We have the option to take it out of the browser and into an app, where the experience is better.