Choosing a learning or training management system (LMS/TMS) is a big deal. If you’ve done it before, or you’re in the process of doing it, then you’ll know it can be a minefield. Questions pluck at your brain: How much does it cost? Would a CRM better suit my business needs? How efficient is automation?
When we’re hunting around for the ideal software system, we tend to focus on matters such as implementation costs, projected ROI and exactly what the machine can do to assist a company’s growth. That’s understandable, since knowing these facts is vital for any business’ survival in the increasing competitive training world, but…
One of the most important factors when choosing the right LMS or TMS is often forgotten: user interface (UI).
Often, you’ll find the term UI used interchangeably with user experience (UX). However, while they work together, UX is typically more concerned with how things work for the end user, while UI design is concerned with how things look. The colors, positioning, and speedy and seamless navigability all tie in to good user interface design and how a user interacts with the site or program.
The Importance of User Interface
So why is UI so important for your training organization’s chosen software system? Whether you offer external or internal training, it’s all about using a system that’s intuitive and intelligent. A well-designed UI makes it easier to train administrators on the new system, since they’re already subconsciously familiar with the general layout. Consider how you reach the settings menu of a website: It’s almost second nature, now, to move your cursor to the top-right corner. You do it without even thinking about it. That’s intelligent UI design.
Intelligent UI design boosts overall productivity and reduces rollout time. While a deeper understanding of the various facets of a new LMS is still critical to success, that intuitive familiarity means rather than having to re-learn how to interact with websites and programs, administrators can find precisely what they need without hemming and hawing. While it’s not guaranteed, you should expect that a solidly designed user interface will reduce errors, since administrators will be somewhat familiar with the design, if not the intricacies, of the system.
UI also plays a role in effectively marketing your training organization, which is particularly useful for companies offering external courses. If learners have access to online portals, you’ll want to ensure that the system’s UI is branded in your company colors, making it stand out on both on-screen and in the mind of your customer. Perhaps more importantly, a system’s UI also influences customer satisfaction; if it does what the user wants, when they want it and with minimal fuss, they’re far more likely to reuse or recommend it. Congratulations: Your system’s intuitive UI has just given you a competitive edge.
Selecting an LMS With a Good User Interface
What should you be looking for in the user interface of a LMS or TMS? Thankfully, most suppliers offer free demos and trials, which is the perfect opportunity to judge the UI. Typically, you should look at five key aspects of an LMS’ interface:
- Clarity: How easy is it to understand what to do or what each icon does? Is it unnecessarily complex?
- Consistency: Are actions constant across all pages to bolster familiarity and eliminate errors?
- Efficiency: Does the system intuitively understand what actions a user is most likely to make, and is it quick to deliver on those actions?
- Engaging: Is the overall design aesthetically pleasing, or is it likely to turn off visitors and users?
- Future-proofed: Will the basic design hold up several years from now?
Each of these factors will enhance the overall experience of using a training or learning management system.
Choosing a supplier who hasn’t factored UI into the design of its system, or who hasn’t updated a system’s visuals since Windows XP was the dominant operating system, won’t destroy your organization. However, it will naturally increase your potential for error and diminish productivity—the very problems the LMS is built to avoid.
We live in a world where leading tech companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google have, over the years, refined and defined our expectation of digital experiences so that we now find navigation instinctive. The user interface sweet spot, then, is finding an LMS that allows you to manage course bookings as efficiently as you check your emails.
Dave Evans is managing director of accessplanit, an award-winning training management software house that has delivered innovative solutions for training companies and L&D departments for over 15 years.