Add more instruction!

When doing course design, I am often developing over the work previously created by others. They can soon become overly cluttered with new material. The solution to many is to just provide more instructions or tutorials on how to use Moodle.

Creating the web design equivalent of the bathroom in this photo.

Which way should I be drying my hands – is this the right one? am I doing this right? is there someone really really sick in my office?

I’m a big fan of Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me think” premise. The idea being, that a well designed website (or software) should let users accomplish their intended task as easily and directly as possible. Effectively removing any extra cognitive load to better focus on the relevant material.

The following images show the evolution of the courses that I worked on to apply this approach to design. This first image shows what they looked like when I began.

My first iteration, I made the course title more clear (for just this initial page), I then brought the Learning Outcomes and Aims and Assessments right up the front. And made it clear who the tutor was. The Announcements are also now more noticeable on every page. I also increased the font-size to current web standards.

The course material is now listed under a Topics tab. Which proved to be one extra step that was also hard to find for some with dyslexia difficulties. I have since changed the Assessments bar chart into a pie-chart to avoid the suggestion that assessments are delivered in a linear order (which they often aren’t).

In the latest iteration, I changed the theme to something more “modern”. Now incorporating more te reo (it’s a long awaited start). Displayed the primary form of communication on the top (the forum) and made it very clear where the course material is. Assessments are now only displayed in the Assessments page to prevent doubling up of information.

With this layout, conditional triggers can show and hide course material as the student goes through the course. It also fits more closely with the institutes branding.

Tutors and students have found the redesign to be a lot more clearer and faster to use. This design needs no instructions or tutorials to be able to use – any more than Facebook, Gmail or Google feel a need to produce instructions for use. While putting this together I came across this great article about The User Experience of Public Restrooms (Nielsen Norman Group) it’s worth a read.

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