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We are all born to learn. Logicearth publishes between 2 to 4 blogs per week and we love to hear how you learn in the workplace. We'll keep you updated on the latest developments in learning technology, brain science and organisational development.

Why you need to mind the gap between UI and UX in eLearning

MindGapUIUX

UI (usability) and UX (user experience), you will know they are essential for eLearning if you’ve read our blog before where we have frequently espoused their myriad virtues.

You might not, however, be certain of the difference between the two, as often these terms are used interchangeably. If you are commissioning great digital content be sure to ask your vendor how they address these two important aspects of design. 

The difference between UI and UX

This quote from Moreno exemplifies the need for a balance between the two elements in order to achieve a successful user-focused interaction. It’s no good designing a custom icon set and wonderful interface in Evolve or any eLearning authoring too, for example, without having first planned the usability and user journey of the digital learning resource.

The very definition of this imbalance can be found in the image exlained here - the very silly, entirely under-thought Phillipe Starck lemon juicer.Juicy Salif 78365

Take a moment to bask in its audacious lack of usability, it’s almost impressively difficult to use. It wobbles uncontrollably when attempting to render any juice like material from a lemon. It’s been known to damage even the sturdiest countertops, and the lemony icing on the cake is the fact that this gold plated version corrodes into ugliness when any drop of acidic lemon juice goes near it. Does it look splendid? Certainly, it’s an iconic piece of mid-century aesthetics. Does it do what it’s supposed to? Barely. Is it enjoyable to use? Ex-squeeze me? No, no it is not.

Of course the opposing imbalance is equally upsetting, where your new course might function perfectly, and be a thoroughly engaging piece of learning that delivers all the right knowledge to a user, but resemble a 90’s website for your local carpet warehouse. Again, without balance between UI and UX your content will not attain that elusive label of ‘enjoyable’.

What can you do to achieve balance in the UI and UX force?

At this stage in a blog it’s customary to lay down a number of bullet points, 7 rules, 10 steps, 13 essential things… let’s buck the trend here slightly. There is only one critical thing to remember when balancing your UI and UX: Preparation.

But what about, communication, or testing or *insert valid point here*…Yes, you need lots of things down the line, but without time to prepare and form a unified strategy of what you intend to build, everything else falls down.

Preparation will draw out the best version of success from your clients. If you are designing your own content, encourage your writers and instructional designers (IDs) to talk to the digital designers before work begins - discover who will be using the content, and on what devices. This type of preparagtion will help to create an instinctive feeling of usability from the entire team, which in turn will help the designers create a look and feel for your digital content that’s a perfect fit for clients and engaging for the users.

The idea during this prep phase is that you give both UI and UX your equal attention, never losing sight of either. Imagine a set of precocious twins on a dull Saturday morning, focus on one too closely and you’ll turn around to discover the other has set fire to the drapes and is attempting to douse the inferno with baked beans. In other words an avoidable and costly cleanup operation is coming your way.

Putting UI and UX preparation into practice

The pinnacle of preparation work is the prototype. The structure of a digital learning resource can be played with, navigation types explored, icon and image examples displayed all before work on the main content is started. It also helps that there is little to no focus on the content in these example builds, which is understandably the main focus of clients when building proper begins. Prepare (that word again) a set of questions to ask the client specifically about both UI and UX concerns in the prototype and will you have a solid foundation to work from moving into the next phase.

The problem, of course, with prep work is that it is rarely fun. Designers love to design, IDs love to write - whats the harm in getting something down right now while my ideas are flowing freely? Remember those twins…Take the time to prepare for that Saturday morning and no furnishings need be harmed.

So what should a successful UX/UI process yeild? This.

UI UX

 

Learn more about UI and UX

If you want to get into UI and UX in more detail, there are are couple people and books that we'd recommend:

On Twitter - have a look at this blog for who to follow for great insights into UX

Here is a free online UX course from the Interaction Design Foundation

A conversation with Julie Dirksen - a guru on all things eLearning and design

 

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