UX considerations for software training
When designing training for software systems, there are a few design best practices to consider:
1. Use screen-capture video instead of still images or screenshots if possible.
Using software like Camtasia or Storyline’s screen-capture feature allows a much more dynamic and polished final product with a lot less effort than taking multiple screenshots. Following a video step by step is a much more enjoyable and immersive learning solution than slide by slide still images, but there are ways to simulate a video experience with still screenshots if that’s all you can use due to software development issues or other reasons.
If you must use still images instead of video, test out your design with short, .1 second fade transitions between your images if there are more than one per slide. You can also add in the animation of a cursor icon moving from one location to the next. Remember to sequence each step carefully in the visuals like dialogue boxes and ok buttons.
2. Make your callouts easy to identify.
Use a color in high contrast to the interface. Most common are bright yellow, red, blue, and chartreuse. Sometimes adding a shadow can help add contrast as well.
Using blinking callouts or wipe animations can help draw the user’s eye to the desired location, but be careful with these – it’s easy to go overboard with excessive animations. Adjust animation timing to be as short as possible while still achieving the attention-capturing effect. As with any eLearning bells and whistles, avoid adding unnecessary time to the training that doesn’t add instructional value, which can exasperate learners and bring on impatience.
3. Make use of zoom-ins, text reinforcement, and voice over narration.
A lot of software makes use of small text to fit more information on the screen at a time. Adding a zoom-in region to a portion of your video or still image can allow the user greater visibility.
On screen notes can help reinforce to the learner that the information just shared was highly important and provides a visual reference point in the training, as well as reinforcement to the audio message. Many software tutorial producers on YouTube forgo audio and narration altogether, using only on-screen instructions in time with the movement of the cursor navigating the program.
When scripting for software training, make sure to consider the order of steps involved. For example, to follow the cursor steps on screen, you would want to write “From the dropdown, select Favorites.”, instead of “Select Favorites from the dropdown.”
4. Show shortcuts, search functions, quick tips, or links out to additional training.
This is like handing your learners an empowerment tool-kit – it shows the learner there are ways to find what they need quickly and encourages them to figure things out on their own. Think about how often you use the search function on a website, whether it’s Facebook or Amazon or Google. If your software has a search function, be sure to demonstrate. If the search function is Boolean, it may be worthwhile pointing to an existing resource explaining how to use Boolean searches, or designing a quick demonstration in your program’s specific search tool.