I have been asked several times by my clients, “what are the top things to consider when designing for EdTech”? While many technologies have different goals and users, some fundamental principles apply to the EdTech space in particular.
Over the next few weeks, I will dive into each one in more detail with examples and methods of applying these principles to your education technology product. Here are the top five things to consider.
1. Onboarding is the most important part of your product
In traditional classrooms, teachers spent months acclimating to new tools, books and curriculums. However, we unconsciously expect new education tools to be understood and adopted immediately. New product anxiety is very high from new tools, especially for teachers, as their choice and understanding of the product affect the larger set of students. The best way to ensure long-term engagement is to create a simple and intuitive start experience.
Onboarding can take many shapes depending on your products: step by step tutorials, highlighted features, videos or even adding tool tips helping users navigate the product. For a product targeted towards teachers, it’s better to think beyond digital means. Adding a support contact number or in-classroom tutorial may be the best solution depending on the complexity of your product.
2. Mobile first, but it’s not that simple
Designing a mobile application as your MVP or first product is a great exercise. It forces you to only put the most essential features on the page in a clear hierarchy. There are several companies such as Audible and Dueling, that rely primarily on a mobile application. Mobile usage is however, very different from desktop or classroom usage. The user is in a very different mental and physical state when using an app on the phone mobile. When using an app, it is often competing with several activities such as receiving text, a phone call, or getting on the bus with the phone in your hand. Users use their laptops or desktop at home, school or at work. While the unexpected distractions are lower, there is intentional multi-tasking. To keep a user engaged and focused differs across the two platforms. Start with mobile but then design an experience which is tailored to the expected and intended behavior on a particular platform.
3. Account for learning disabilities
Around 15% of all students in the US are believed to have a learning disability. Let’s take dyslexia as an example: learners with dyslexia have difficulty reading and comprehending what they have read. Some solutions that have proven to work to help learners with dyslexia is teaching via video content or formatting text based content to be very legible. Surprisingly some of the good practices for dyslexia are also good practices for user experience and design.
Run usability tests for your products with a wider group of users and you’ll see that simplifying your content and experience for learning disabilities will create better experience for all users.
4. Reduce the number of choices
Several content-based products run into the same basic question: should we let the users decide where to start in the material or pre-define it? When you ask a user would you like to have more options, the answer is always yes, yet numerous studies have been conducted that show that people feel less happy when they have to pick from too many options. This is called cognitive burden. When presented with several options, users are more likely to abandon the process or feel immediate discontent by the decision that they made, than be happy to have the options. In most cases limiting the choice creates a better user experience and happier, more engaged users.
One exception to this rule is when you are providing an exploratory learning environment, where users are encouraged to sample. In this case, it’s best to provide users with a range of tools that can help users accomplish an outcome.
5. Motivate through achievement
When EdTech products want to increase engagement, the answer is too often, “let’s add some badges”. But when you see badges working very successfully in other products, those badges are tied to key achievement points. Just adding badges to an experience when a user completes a task does not create long-term motivation and engagement. In order to motivate a user to continue learning, they have to feel a sense of achievement. This is accomplished when you think through how to make your product user flow, motivating as a whole. Does it have the right triggers, tools and outcomes to sustain a user’s interest? Ultimately, users need to have gained something intrinsically valuable, perhaps knowledge or social verification, which makes them come back a second time and many more times after.
Stay tuned for the next installment, where I will dive into On boarding and elaborate on good and bad examples.