“Think outside the box, but color within the lines.”
This is essentially what we expect our course designers to do. We want our designers to be creative and innovative yet maintain consistency across all of our courseware and products, so that what we develop is easily recognizable as a Global Knowledge product and experience.
We want the visuals to surprise and delight you, but we want them to be developed a certain way so that our courses run without a hitch on the platforms we use.
We want our designers to be passionate about the work they do but still ensure that they follow all the rules that hold their work to a standard.
We have found that we can achieve these seemingly conflicting goals by following design principles that guide our development. These are the simple truths that all of our course design, whether visual or instructional, needs to adhere to. These are what our standards, our best practices, and our testing are based on. The design principles are what everything must filter through.
How We Came Up with Our Design Principles
At Global Knowledge, you, the learner, are the focal point of our design methodology. Customer experience research shows that every time users interact with a product, they judge it along three lines:
- How well the interaction helped them achieve their goals.
- How much effort they needed to invest in the interaction.
- How much they enjoyed the interaction.
In other words, was it worth your time and would you do it again? This concept is often portrayed as the customer experience pyramid.
In order for you – our learners – to have a positive experience with our courseware, we knew that our design had to satisfy your needs at each of these levels. It only made sense for our design principles to be rooted in the customer experience pyramid.
Our Design Principles
Combining the customer experience pyramid, industry best practices and our branding guidelines, we came up with the following four principles to guide both our visual and instructional design:
This principle relates to the bottom layer of the customer experience pyramid. Our training must provide real solutions to real problems. It should resonate with the learners. It should encourage trust in our brand and our credibility as experts who can help our learners achieve their goals.
As designers, we must ask ourselves:
- Is the message relevant to the learner?
- Does it deliver what we promised?
- Is it original?
- Is it true to our brand?
The middle layer of the customer experience pyramid is about making the experience easy for the learners. Although learners should have to stretch themselves to accomplish their learning objectives, there should be no barriers between learners and the learning experience itself. As course designers, we must bridge the gap between the message and the learners’ knowledge, ability, technology, culture and language.
To make the learning accessible, we ask ourselves:
- Can the learner relate to the tone and presentation of the message?
- Can the learner get to the information without needing to take extra measures?
- Does it fit into their “normal”?
Also related to the middle layer, readability refers to ease of reading and comprehension. It is the speed at which the message is understood. Text length and placement, vocabulary, font size, patterns, graphics, and learner’s interest all contribute to speeding up perception.
To minimize the time that learners need to process information, visual and instructional designers must ask themselves:
- Do the typography, hierarchy, layout and color add meaning to the content?
- Do the words and sentence structure facilitate understanding?
- Does the design enhance the understanding of relationships between elements?
Related to both the “Easy” and “Meets needs” layers of the customer experience pyramid, our fourth design principle is simplicity. American author and critic Theodore Sturgeon coined Sturgeon’s Law, which proclaims, “Ninety percent of anything is crap.” We encourage our designers to remove this 90 percent by stripping away extraneous elements and words.
Our designers must ask themselves:
- Is the message focused?
- Does the presentation of the message reduce load on learners’ machines, as well as on their brains?
- Does it contain only the essential information?
Together, these four design principles deliver the topmost layer of the customer experience pyramid: They make the learning experience enjoyable so that when students take a Global Knowledge class, they can sincerely say, “I felt good about that.”
And if, through our design, we can take the learners to that level, we can feel good about that too.