BLOG: Painting Unicorn’s Digital Canvas
You’ve been impressed by Unicorn’s engaging eLearning using case studies, scenarios, games and simulation. But who are the people doing this fun stuff? Richard Kelly is one of Unicorn’s Digital Designers. He peeks behind the scenes of the Digital Design Team (DDT)……
Our DDT is driven by this ethos, but most of all we want to make the courses the best looking in the industry, without compromising on the usability our clients should be accustomed to.
The team has grown considerably over the past year in response to the high workload and the desire to raise the bar. Headed by Richard Armitage the team now consists of Jane Daniel, Katrina Newsham, Yolanda Kuang, Rich Smallcalder and myself.
So, how do we intend to keep raising the bar? How are we going to deal with current trends and technology? And why exactly did we change the name of our department from Graphic Design to Digital Design Team?
Our eLearning courses should be pleasing on the eye and also the interactive elements based around them need to be pleasant and fun to use. It is easy to forget the key rules in design when adding in fun, because at the heart of it we want the courses to be easy to use.
Donald Norman, usability pioneer, recognised this in his book Emotional Design, suggesting software was more effective when users found it aesthetically appealing, or they formed another emotional connection to the software. As he put it, “attractive things work better”.
However, we cannot rely on just the look of our content. We need to make sure the graphics, navigation, video and audio are placed with different delivery methods in mind. For instance, content on tablets will look different on a desktop PC than on a smartphone.
To get round these issues, our courses are laid out so we can make them responsive to all, be it desktop, tablet or mobile devices. To quote: we aim to create an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices.
So raising the bar is not only on the look and feel of our online courses, it’s to do with designing for multiple delivery devices.
A fine example of this is navigation buttons for users to move back and forth between screens. Big, large buttons will be needed so people can successfully click on navigation on mobile devices. However, too big and this could impact on crucial content area.
In collaboration with our very talented Instructional Designer and Development teams we create content with a ‘visual journey.’ We, where relevant, nest the content into a theme ensuring the courses are fluid, consistent and engaging.
For example, we may want to do a course which is based around a Formula One race. The more questions you get correct the more chance you can win the race. If at any point you need to reconsider the background information you can find out more at the pitstop. The characters are generally repeated if possible so you see them as a reliable/friendly.
The reasoning behind the department’s new name is in response to the ever-changing environment of possibilities in eLearning. Where once, Graphic Designers created the relevant liveries and images for the courses, we are now seeing more and more clients requesting audio, video and assisted print materials.
We have had a massive jump in the amount of video and audio supported courses, mainly down to increased bandwidth and improved IT systems but also because many have realised the expectations of the user.
With this, it is important to design with accessibility guidelines in mind, for instance transcript is required for video and audio elements and there are still bandwidth limitations to take into account.
The Digital Design Team is inspired by the feedback we get from clients and to make sure we are moving forward in sync with your thoughts in mind. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know your thoughts – thanks for reading!