Interface designer is a fairy godmother of your eLearning application. They can make it simpler to use, more engaging, and more suitable to the context.
But unless UI is done right, your interface carriage may turn into a pumpkin even before the clock strikes midnight. To make sure it doesn't come to that, let’s learn from the best eLearning interface designs.
You're about to see some examples of eLearning platform design — award-winning ones, ones that you’ll recognize as soon as you set eyes on them, and ones that you’ve never seen before.
Those examples are here not only for you to pull some inspiration from. Each of them represents some general principles of user interface design, and some ways you can go about creating your own educational application.
Later in this article, we’ll explore applications designed to look good at any device and those that enhance user engagement. But first, let’s look at user interface design examples that add to learning applications’ usability.
UI design can improve the learning experience
Throwing too much info at your readers at once is a good way to drive them into overload. Luckily, a masterful UI can turn any bunch of content into a simple minimalistic app. Let me show you how it works with our first example of an eLearning system.
TypingClub design for maintaining focus
TypingClub is an online touch typing course that works really hard to minimize all the information unrelated to the lesson. The app controls dissolve as soon as a student starts typing to appear only when a mission is accomplished. They are minimized to a tiny menu button in the top left corner and a few icons in the top right one.
Such a minimalistic interface has a calming effect on the viewer. It allows the learner to focus. It promotes clarity. But white spaces shouldn’t entirely replace controls, orientation signs and visual cues — otherwise, users would fail to find the needed spot in your app.
iSpring Learn presents navigation and orientation best practices
When students struggle to orient themselves inside eLearning courses, it’s a design problem. Because students should use their cognitive capacity for learning their lesson rather than learning how to use your application.
To help users orient within a course, iSpring shows all the topics on the right. To navigate within each topic, you have a bottom menu that allows you to start or stop, move forward or backward, or return to the main menu.
If you want more details about LMS design, we highly recommend you check out our LMS UX design rules article.
Duolingo masters bite-sized learning content
With over 150 million users registered around the world, Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning apps on the market today. It takes a gamification approach to education, it takes eLearning graphic design to a whole new level, it became a meme after all.
All of this makes Duolingo the perfect candidate for us to explore learning interface design. But let us draw attention to the feature that hides behind Duolingo’s bright graphics, points, and badges. It’s Duolingo’s bite-sized content.
When signing up for Duolingo, you can choose between learning for 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes a day — and the app will provide you with snackable lessons that fit that time gap.
Such eLearning architecture design makes perfect sense. Microlearning fits perfectly into the natural flow of users’ workday with its little time spans and tiny smartphone screens. Such short pieces of content work in favor of learning on the go. You can learn a lesson while staying at a bus stop or waiting in a queue for a morning coffee.
User interface design can make your app look good on all devices
Responsive eLearning design sounds like a good idea, since learners will use whatever devices they have to access their training. However, squeezing a web course to mobile, or mobile learning course to VR triggers some non-obvious design challenges.
PublishXI LMS and its mobile UI eLearning approach
On the web, we control the interface with clicks and mouse scrolling. On mobile devices it’s not the case — the layout should allow one to finger-scroll, zoom, or pinch the screen. That’s why you can’t easily adapt desktop interfaces to mobile.
For instance, given that most people navigate on their phones with a single hand, we put mobile navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen and made them large enough for users to tap with their thumb.
VR eLearning presented by LabTrainingVR Biosafety Cabinet
Education in a 360-degree interactive environment is by default much more exciting than just sitting in a classroom listening to some dude spelling things. Like, students can experience first-hand the life of an Ancient Greek artisan instead of visiting a museum or virtually travel to the Easter Island statues instead of just looking for Polynesia on a map.
However, virtual reality is a very specific medium that lives by its own rules, differing from those for web and mobile design. In web design, for instance, we have a series of tricks to make functionality obvious for users. Like, a pointer icon that changes to a hand icon every time you point the mouse cursor on something clickable on the web. How would the same work for VR?
The LabTrainingVR course was created for public health laboratory professionals, to help them apply knowledge and practice setting up a biological safety cabinet. This virtual lab shows how the principle of discoverability can be applied to virtual reality technology:
- Proximity implies a relationship with objects.
- Objects available for manipulation are large and easy to select. They have bright colors, as compared to light monotonous backgrounds.
- The highlight around the selected objects works as a cue to show what items can be manipulated.
UI has the power to enhance user engagement
eLearning UX design can offer scenarios, branching, storytelling, gaming, assessments, and more to inspire instructional design. Here we have examples of such engagement techniques well implemented.
Sololearn and its engagement triggers
Learner engagement triggers, also known as gamification, are a popular way to increase user motivation and retention. Sololearn is the world's largest community of people learning to code, and it has a full set of gamification mechanics such as challenges, badges, rankings and progress bars. Let’s take a look at them.
Thanks to its community-driven engagement techniques, Sololearn has grown by word of mouth to 21 million registered users in 12 months. Its gamification is so good it makes learning addictive for some users.
Shady Sam presents the very essence of eLearning gamification
Congratulations! You have been hired by Shady Sam, and your job is to rip hard-working Americans off by providing questionable loans with hidden interest rates. Work diligently, and you’ll get cool stuff for your desk.
That’s the story told by Shady Sam, a browser game from Mckinney designed to demonstrate how loan terms can hurt you, if you don’t pay attention.
Instead of listening to a boring lecture about mortgage and interest rates, users take the role of a loan shark. Trying to trick others in the game, players easily understand the logic behind such tricks.
This learning app was created according to all gamification best practices:
- It offers a simplified, easy to grasp model of a complex financial system.
- It makes players take on a new role and make decisions in that role. Namely, users learn by simulating new experiences.
- Finally, the game immerses players into the new world and makes people take their lessons seriously.
Interested in gamification techniques? We have a dedicated article about how to use gamification in eLearning.
So how to design an eLearning platform?
Now that you are inspired by some awesome learning examples, time to move to the next level. User experience is the backbone of any application, so we recommend checking out our guide to UX strategy so that you can build the foundation of your eLearning project.
If you’re looking for designers to implement your ideas, you may find the article on how to build a design team useful.