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Top 7 UX Design Strategies to Enhance Your LMS

Elevate learner engagement and satisfaction with these UX best practices when designing your LMS.


UX best practices for designing an LMS

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are increasingly moving K-12 education, corporate training, and adult learning online. From serving as fully virtual classrooms to systems for tracking employee training, LMS services perform critical functions for organizations and institutions. And perhaps not surprisingly, they require particularly thoughtful attention to UX.


In other software tools, user experience design can make big differences in efficiency and productivity—but in an LMS, quality design can have wider effects. UX design in LMSs can influence how much students learn from lessons, or whether or not a new training initiative will be engaging enough for employees. For learners with disabilities, thoughtful UX can unlock previously inaccessible lessons and activities.


Although high-quality UX in an LMS is critical for successful adoption and improving learning outcomes for users, creating it doesn’t have to be complex. In this article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of building streamlined, intuitive, and accessible LMS workflows with seven actionable strategies.



1. Understand user needs and pain points


The reality is that for many learners and instructors, any LMS platform is going to be a major part of their lives on a daily or weekly basis, making intuitive UX a must. In addition, UX issues related to navigating or using the software could lead to disengagement and learning loss, difficulties accessing or submitting assignments, or communication issues with instructors.


In many cases, an LMS will be accessed by different user types that often have distinct permissions, settings, and features (like different flows, features, and menus for instructors versus students, highly common in LMSs for k-12 and university settings). In addition, learning environments are dynamic and sometimes unpredictable, and understanding these different user types is a great first step towards making an LMS intuitive. For example, instructors might switch from data entry via a tablet while observing in-person learning to viewing this data later in a desktop environment. Conducting user research through surveys, interviews, and usability testing can help illuminate how an LMS is used in the real world, and any pain points users might encounter in the field.



2. Streamline navigation and information architecture


Learners need access to intuitive navigation and information architecture, whether it’s an LMS for educational institutions, corporate training, or career development courses via sites like LinkedIn Learning or Coursera. Let’s take a look below at how Coursera, a popular freemium LMS, uses labeling, hierarchical organization, and contextual clues.


Clear labeling

Notice how much information Coursera can include in the following example through clear labeling on the “My Learning” homepage. The grey shaded bubble lets the user know that the course is not done but in progress. It is also clearly labeled as a “Course” and offered by “Google” above the course title “Foundations of Digital Marketing and E-commerce.” Though it might seem simple, this clear labeling goes a long way to ensuring users get where they need to go.


LMS clear labeling example

Hierarchical organization

Logical information hierarchies are essential for the natural tendency of educational content to flow from introductory material to more complex work. Notice how the page below puts more essential elements at the top, allowing for granular drill-downs into each module (in this case, Module 1).


Google LMS hierarchical organization example

Context clues

In both examples above, simple context clues guide users in navigating an app or website and help to suggest subsequent actions to progress through a course or flow. For example, the dropdown on the left side of the screen uses green checkmarks to indicate which course materials have been completed, whereas the greyed-out “All videos completed” in the dropdown at the top indicates that more videos remain to be watched. If you maintain consistency in design, users will recognize these contextual clues on other pages and functions within an LMS — making for a more intuitive experience overall.



3. Make it responsive and accessible for all learners


Learners deserve equitable access to information, and following some basic design principles can go a long way toward ensuring your LMS works on any device and is inclusive. In-person corporate learning, K-12, and university settings can require instructors and students to toggle between tablets, laptops, and desktop environments, necessitating that LMS accessibility is equally good across devices and screen sizes. Any LMS has a responsibility to adhere to accessibility standards from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) or The National Disability Authority’s “universal design” to make sure content is easy to interact with for people with disabilities.



4. Tailor the experience to individual end users


Everyone learns differently, and great UX in an LMS takes this into account. Some learners prefer information conveyed via visuals, text, or audio. For others, learning by doing is the key to internalizing a skill. But beyond learning styles, providing unique, personalized choices in courses or learning paths is a common feature of successful modern LMSs.


In the example below, Udemy’s Business LMS allows users to customize learning paths for upskilling, creating onboarding materials, or creating a career development plan. Adaptive learning algorithms help track previous course interactions and interests to help recommend relevant classes and activities for next steps.


Udemy LMS personalized user experience

5. Enhance multimedia content and interactivity


As digital learning platforms increasingly utilize visual content to present information, learners expect educational information to be presented similarly. Multimedia content, including videos and gamified learning paths, can not only spice up dense, text-heavy learning–it can even lead to better engagement and knowledge retention. If we read a paragraph about a topic, we only get text. But if the text can be paired with a supporting video, we also get visual information, text, and audio—potentially providing more pathways for learners to retain knowledge.


In the example pictured below, Salesforce’s Trailhead training suite gamifies lessons using badges, progress bars, and a point system. Rather than passively consuming lessons, these elements make the exercise more engaging for end users.


Salesforce Trailhead LMS multi-media

6. Ensure seamless integration and interoperability


Sometimes, data will have to be shared across other platforms and should allow for seamless integrations. In K-12, LMSs like PowerSchool have to import testing scores from platforms like I-Ready (testing and grade placement) and integrate with other databases to pull in student information. Some LMSs integrate with tools like Tableau and CRMs like Salesforce to create powerful visualizations for corporate or sales training.


To allow for communication between such complex and powerful tools, standards like SCORM and LTI have emerged to standardize the way information is stored and communicated. Whichever you choose, it’s important to consider the breadth of other tools and services that your LMS can pair with. For busy learners and instructors, reliable integrations can make a big difference in user experience. To follow best practices, consider designing for and building more common third-party integrations into LMSs by default, but make sure you still allow for custom API connections.



7. Commit to continuous improvement through feedback


Intuitive, frustration-free UX experiences go a long way toward keeping users in a flow state for optimal learning. The best LMS solutions often evolve over time based on data from surveys, feedback forms, and analytics. Many LMSs are used by entire school districts and organizations with thousands of users, using a wide range of devices and varying levels of technical ability, thus unforeseen issues will occur. Embracing continuous improvement is key to a successful product and continued user engagement for LMSs—regardless of industry.



Elevate learning by enhancing the user experience


For LMS users, great UX isn’t just a nice to have—it can make or break learning experiences. The vast differences between individuals, learning styles, and topical interests require LMS platforms to focus on individualized learning and accessible design. If you’re in the process of developing, refining, or evaluating an LMS, consider the user first. Whether it’s from the perspective of a teacher, student, or institutional administrator, intuitive UX is key to creating engaging and effective learning environments.


While each of the seven approaches outlined in our blog will get you on the right path, the best results will come from using them together. If you want to start putting user experience principles into practice to build better a LMS solution, reach out to our team or email us at hello@neuronux.com.


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