Good vs. Bad User Experience

Our talented eLearning designer, Zoe Hall, explains what makes a negative user experience and offers tips on how she approaches building an effective user experience.

“A User Interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”

It’s useful to understand the difference between the terms User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX):

  • UI – the product used to access the content – e.g. website, app, game, LMS etc.
  • UX – the entire experience the user has whilst navigating the through UI product, and the associating feelings and behaviours.

The UI in eLearning can have a huge impact on the quality of the UX. It can be the difference between an engaged and a distracted learner. A lot of thought should be put into selecting the most appropriate UI format. This provides a strong foundation that will allow the eLearning to be easy to navigate. Anything counterintuitive in the UI is distracting.

What makes a bad eLearning UX?

  • Overly complex content

Being faced with too much information will overwhelm the learner from the outset. Nobody wants to endure paragraphs of text. As best practice, making sure the content is succinct is crucial.

Our clients are subject matter experts. They know their stuff! They provide us with the meaningful content their learners need to grasp. My job is to convert detailed information into digestible eLearning that is quick to access and easy to understand.

  • A repetitive, predictable layout

Learners may lose concentration if the flow of the course becomes too predictable. For example, placing the Next button in the same position throughout the course is consistent and considered good UI 99% of the time. However, for complex, technical or compliance training, the risk is that a less diligent learner becomes disengaged. An overly consistent UI can make it too easy to mindlessly skip content. In these cases, it can make sense to play around with the layout.

I use a variety of methods to engage the learner. For example, changing titles of the buttons to Click for more information to reveal hidden material. Regardless of the layout, button style, feedback methods and colour themes are all factors that should remain constant through the eLearning experience. I use client brand guidelines to ensure that the training looks professional and on brand.

  • Ineffective instructional design

A client can provide the most detailed and expert information on a topic, but without a logical UX, the information is useless. The content must be formatted in a layout that makes sense to the user to transform the information into retained knowledge. For example, using a mobile phone has become such a common activity for us all, so it makes sense for eLearning to be accessible on numerous devices. eLearning modules that are responsive on desktop, tablet and mobile will likely reach more learners. GuyKat storyboard with clients to ensure that our designs meet the needs of your users.

  • When the user asks “What do I do now?”

If users are  left asking: “What do I do now?” when working through a course, then the eLearning has failed. A confused user = a lack of concentration.

The navigation must be simple to follow. If presented appropriately, the navigation should speak for itself and not have to be explained.

  • Difficult to retain information

The learner can miss out on meeting the learning objectives. This may be due to them skipping their way through the course, or just skimming over the valuable and insightful text. This is one of the biggest challenges in eLearning, as it can be difficult to gauge whether the learner is truly engaged.

A great way to resolve this is using a great LMS. It’s important to appreciate that the user experience begins even before the eLearning has been accessed. The LMS should have seamless navigation that should come intuitively to users. GuyKat are proud UK partners of Docebo. We love Docebo because the UX means learners get to the content effortlessly. With many other LMS solutions the user may start off in the wrong mindset because they’ve just had a horrible UX before they’ve even launched the beautiful content we have built. This is a shame. If your LMS has a bad UI your overall learning journey will still be a bad UX, so you need to dump it.

Zoe’s steps to creating an effective user experience

1. Produce a plan

I begin by writing a detailed script then I start designing. I create a storyboard and evaluate the best interactions for your content.

2. Construct the right interactivity for the learning objective

Some authoring tools provide plenty of interactive opportunities, whilst others come with limitations. If my authoring tool does not allow me to create a certain interaction, then Ill explore how else I could make it work, I don’t limit myself.

3. Always carry out Quality Assurance

Its true that your eyes read what they want you to see. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can pick up things that are easily missed. I always ask for thorough feedback and the QA team at GuyKat are happy to help. The pickier, the better.

4. Draw inspiration from other sources

If I come across a well-designed website or if an advertisement catches my eye, I make a note of what I liked about it, what was attractive about it. I carry these ideas into my designing when I need some inspiration.


Its important to not become complacent when designing eLearning, so by putting myself in the eyes of the learner, I make sure the UX is consistent, interesting, interactive and engaging to meet the client’s objectives.