As learning designers, we often look to the worlds of web or graphic design for inspiration. But why not cast the net a bit wider and look at other areas of the design industry, such as interiors, products or fashion? This will allow us to dive to the depths of what trends are taking off in the design world and interpret what works in those areas to create great learning experiences.
UX – Make It Personal
User experience design has changed significantly since the term was first coined in the early 1990s by Don Norman, a cognitive scientist for Apple. Agile user experience is now prolific and in 2019 things will get leaner.
Each day UK is becoming more personalized through voice-based interfaces and biometric identifications, which will only become more prolific in the market.
The old mental models we’ve been using as a metaphor for the digital world need to evolve beyond a wireframe. Improving learner experience is much more about journeys and mindsets than static screens.
The human brain is wired to remember compelling narratives and we should always strive to use our technology in the best way possible to achieve this. This ties back to finding out what the user wants. We need to research and gather data to find out what motivates specific audiences so that we can build close human connections, empathy and in-depth comprehension through the stories we tell.
AI – Embrace the Bots
Technology is leading the way in advancing artificial intelligence, but design will play a critical role in the advancement and adoption of AI. Again, comparisons with other industries are helpful for demonstrating the role of design – for example, think of how you can delivery drivers through apps, right up until they ring your doorbell.
The same principle applies to learning design. How exactly is AI going to be built into learning, and how can you bring your concept to life through design in a way that makes it genuinely useful to clients and learners?
AI makes data far more accessible. The power of design is being able to engage people by representing information we’ve capture and presenting it in a meaningful way, rather than blinding them with stats. This might be something like comparing their own decision with poll data or engaging with a chatbot to reflect on their understanding of a subject.
You can see an example here of how we used data to help staff at an online booking company to develop excellent customer experience skills, using a virtual experience.
Remember the Human
As individuals, we don’t all have the same abilities or needs but the way products and services are designed often assumes that we do. We need to provide an experience that works for everyone. Closed captions and screenreader accessible pages are part of the norm in elearning, but other industries are thinking about what true representation and inclusivity looks like to their audiences.
Tech-based companies like Microsoft, Appple and Google are proving their commitment to accessibility and retailers such as Target and Tommy Hilfiger are expanding to make clothing or goods that suit people of all description.
Representation has become a key watchword in the media with TV, film and journalism being challenged to have a diverse cast of faces, and the positive response of audiences is evident in the success of new films such as Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians.
As in every industry, fashion designers are expected to offer solutions and reactions to our times. The key trends hat emerged from Spring/Summer shows that reflect this; escapism, pragmatism, expressionism and body positivity. For learning designers, we can think about how we represent these trends through the visual or conceptual presentation of our programs.
Some of the key fashion trends for the year inspired our desire to explore the world (Chloe), the celebration of the craftmanship of hand-made items (Loewe), a non-conformity of existing gender roles with unisex styles (Louis Vuitton), each of which we can learn from when it comes to designing a genuinely representative learning experience.
There was also a diverse palette of flesh tones at Burberry, “maybe commentary on oversharing on social media, a reflection of the ways we conceal and reveal who we are underneath our clothes?” (Vogue).
Another change for us to consider how personalization plays a role in creating a space that gives people the freedom to share – or not – what they are learning and what they have learned.
Ethics – Take Responsibility
In recent times, there has been greater consideration not just of what technology should be used for, but the negative influence it can have on our society. You only have to look at the Silicon Valley tech wizards sending their children to schools which ban technology and advocate an individual-centred curriculum, to see how those with the most know-how are aware of the downfalls.
In order to design technology that improves lives, we need to look beyond measuring technology’s success solely on the basis of adoption, usability and efficiency.
Ryan Wynia, a Chicago-based design leader, believes that design methods and frameworks need to be more robust and more sensitive to the contexts in which people use the products we design for. According to Wynia, “more awareness around slow-changing interactions, those supporting behavioral and attitudinal changes that are initiated and sustained over time, will continue to grow.”
Based on what we know about how people learn, these slow-change interactions are vital to ensuring that something discovered in a training environment results in a measurable output in the workplace. What change occurs will be based on the type of learning – compliance, soft skills, technical training – and the industry in which these are used. A successful learning method for one audience group will not necessarily work for another and we need to carefully interpret data to inform user-generated design that is specific for that audience group.
Conclusion: What’s the Value?
In a world of constant change it isn’t always easy for designers to define and follow a clear path. Technology is developing at pace, but so are our fears about its influence and
how it’s used in our society. Designers in all industries are trying to represent the world we’re in, but also look ahead to predict what’s next.
Previous design principles have been based around engagement – getting people into a course, working through it and returning back to it. But as technology becomes more and more prolific, our attention is constantly puled in a million different directions. We now need to design with healthier, sustainable behaviors in minds.
Rather than measuring how long someone spends on our learning, we show be analyzing what they’re actually getting out of it. Did it have a recognizable effect on their behavior? Did it lead to not only increased sales and customer satisfaction, but also developed the learner’s personal achievement.
We need to consider the individual, the learner, as ever and not only think about how we can make their life easier, in the simplest way possible, but also more meaningful. It is this value which people will be looking for in 2019.
About the Author
Liz Smith – Liz is the Lead Solutions Designer at Kineo.