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written by Hannah Waddams
Mar 21, 2023

UX Design In Learning & Development: Putting Your Audience First


How much thought have you given to the impact of UX design in learning experiences? How about how user experience (UX) influences your marketing for learning initiatives? If your answer is ‘not a lot’, it’s time to change that. In our latest podcast we were joined by User Experience expert and winner of the Learning Technologies ‘Learning Designer of the Year’ Silver award, Paula Hughes.In this podcast we discuss all things UX, how L&D can better embrace this way of thinking, and the barriers we face in doing so. Watch or listen to the full podcast by clicking play below, or if you wanna read the highlights, keep on scrolling!

What is User Experience Design in Learning?

In its simplest form, UX design refers to “how people interact with a product. And how the design of the product may impact how we feel about the interaction.” So how does this translate to learning?

UX design in learning is fundamentally about putting the learner at the heart of everything you do. Instead of focusing on the business goal or stakeholder demands, those with a UX eye will focus on what their audience is doing and feeling at every single touchpoint. And they will leverage this knowledge and understanding to nudge users towards the end goal.

Paula summarised UX design as: Putting the end user at the heart of everything you do and knowing what all your trigger points are, like where you're driving your audience to, where they're coming from, making sure that they're focusing on the right things, at the right time. And then acknowledging that there’s a happy and an unhappy path to learning. Then, when they drop in an unhappy path, how do we get them back on track?

UX is a lot of thinking and exploring human behaviour, which is probably the most interesting part of it because humans are your biggest variable and they never do what you expect them to do.

To truly embrace UX design, L&Ders need to accept that humans are not robots. Your people will not do things in a linear fashion. They have feelings and emotions and you need to cater to that.

So now we understand what UX design is, let’s look at the top 4 takeaways from the podcast:

1. Stop Thinking About Learning Programmes – Consider The Entire Journey

There’s a lot of noise grappling for your audience's attention, right? And there’s no way you want to add to that noise – that’s probably why you’re reading this blog right now. But what many L&Ders don’t realise is that by only considering your learning on a programme-by-programme basis, you’re doing exactly that. So, it’s time to zoom out and think holistically about the entire experience your audience is having. What impact does their day job have? How does internal communications influence their readiness to learn? What about the things going on outside of work?

If you bury your head in the sand and only consider your learning programme, the communications, marketing and experience you’re pushing out will simply add to the noise. In fact, Paula pointed out you may end up competing with your nearest colleagues if you adopt a programme-by-programme approach: Imagine you were only looking at UX from a programme point of view. Then someone else in your team, who’s working on a different programme, might also look at it from the same perspective. You’ll end up competing with one another and creating more noise. So, you have to take a step back and look at everything else, because when we put stuff out there, it doesn't happen in isolation. They're out there in the real world. Other people are talking to them at the same time, and we need to know where we fit in, in the grand scheme of that, because if we don't, all we’re doing is contributing to the noise and contributing to the problem.

2. Expect That Your People Don’t Want To Learn

All too often L&Ders fall into a trap of believing that their target audience wants to learn. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, you may have a handful of 5 star students who are brimming with excitement at the thought of every learning opportunity. But the majority of your people won’t feel this way – in fact, they may see learning as an interruption to their day job. So, when you’re creating your user journeys, don’t assume positive intent. Don’t start your journey with “they’re looking for a learning intervention”. Because that isn’t the reality – and if you cater all of your design and marketing around that mindset; it’ll fall short.

In addition to your UX design, this mindset will also help you with your learning and Marketing for Learning initiatives. From a learning point of view: Does everything need to be a formal learning intervention? If your people don’t want to learn… is a day away from the office really the best route to take? Do they need a 72 slide e-learning course for a task they don’t need to remember in the long-run? Or is a bite-sized video more appropriate?

And from a marketing perspective, this mindset will help you realise you need to promote your offering in a way that will fulfil a need, satiate a desire or alleviate a pain. After all, you’d never see a good or commodity marketed on the assumption that everyone wants to part with their hard-earned money to receive it. So we shouldn’t make that assumption about time in learning either!

3. Get To Know Your Audience Better

Paula made it very clear in the podcast: UX design in learning is about putting the audience first. So how can you truly put someone at the heart of everything you do, if you don’t know anything about them?

When faced with this challenge, L&Ders will often opt to segment their audience based on job title. But trust us when we say that’s a very ineffective way to segment! Instead, create learner personas based on your audience's motivations and desires, their fears and pain points and their psychographic information. Once you have this deeper understanding of who they are, you can better formulate a realistic user journey and market to them more effectively. Which ultimately allows you to champion them, put their best interests first, and if you feel like a project is going wayward, you can stop and say “is this in the best interest of our target audience? Is this really what they need?”

Developing out learner personas can sometimes feel overwhelming for L&Ders, where on earth are you meant to find out all of this information? Well, Paula tells us that in her most recent role she’s been doing interviews, focus groups, and observation sessions with people using the software that she’s working on:

“It’s been a massive eyeopener. When you see somebody looking utterly bemused and confused when you put something in front of them, it tells you so much. Plus we do employee surveys, and things like that. There’s no one thing that will give you all the answers. But once you draw it all together, and start recognising the patterns and trends in it, and then you uncover different motivations in your target audience.”

4. UX Design Isn’t A Quick Win

L&Ders are busy people, so we wholeheartedly understand the desire for everything to be a quick win. But unfortunately, UX design isn’t one of them (and neither is Marketing for Learning, for that matter!) To get the most from UX design, you must put in the effort and you must shift your mindset.

Firstly, L&D must realise that they don’t have to do everything themselves. Within many organisations there are numerous divisions focused entirely on employees. So instead of assuming you must be the expert, and complete all the hard graft yourself, ask around, see what’s already available in your organisation. What can you leverage from other teams and divisions that helps scope your knowledge and understanding of your people? How does that change your perceptions of your user journey?

Secondly, it’s time to adopt a marketing mindset. Being continually curious and customer-centric will change your approach to almost everything you do. You’ll find an inner confidence to stop cutting corners. Instead, you’ll stop and question “are we still on the right track?” “Is this still what our end user really needs?”

We’re the first to confess that Marketers can be some of the most annoying people – somewhat resembling a child constantly asking ‘but whyyyyy?’ But challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries and asking why is truly at the heart of brilliant UX design, so don’t be afraid to be that annoying child once in a while.

UX Design Empowers You To Put Your People First

We talk a lot about championing the end user here at MAAS, because for marketing for learning to be effective – you really do have to put them first. And putting on your UX hat, zooming out and looking holistically at your learners’ entire journey from awareness all the way through to action, will help you do just that. We absolutely loved this chat with Paula, and we hope you did too! If you want to chat more about UX design, you can find Paula on LinkedIn here.

Want to learn more about Marketing for Learning? Curious about the ‘Marketing masterclass’ Paula mentioned in the pod? You can find out more here. 😉

written by Hannah Waddams

from the blog

from the blog