It’s common for an LMS to take on a bit of clunkiness through development, right at launch or as more courses and programs launch on the system.
Clunkiness is a general feeling that something on the system is not right and it is not as smooth as it could be. It can sometimes be hard.
I’ve run across clunky LMSs that technically achieved it’s stated goals and where the content isn’t really that bad but you would still describe the experience as “clunky”. This can be frustrating when you feel like you completed all the original goals but the project still feels unfinished. Doesn’t everyone want their LMS to be quick, slick, and intuitive? The tricky thing is that training programs rare complex systems with many pieces and possibilities for diagnosing a problem.
Here are a few ideas on where to look when trying to declunkify your LMS.
Too many functions, are you focused on learning?
It can be tempting to add too many features at once into a training site. Although the focus should be on training, it’s easy to start throwing in distracting features once the project gets going. Contests, portals, special events, even vacation days are things we have seen added to learning management systems. Be careful because these features, although useful, can add clunk to your system!
Keep functions to a minimum and try to focus on learning. It might not be the most exciting but when users log in to an LMS and all they can do is access learning content, it’s hard for them to lose focus.
Launch new features over time, after previous features have been accepted by the general population. Try not to overwhelm learners who likely have many other things to worry about.
Navigation, categories, and searchability
Content can fill up quickly in an LMS and no matter how carefully the metadata and categories have been organized, it gets to be a bit of a mass. For learners, struggling to find the work that they are assigned to do is an extra layer of frustration they could live without.
Use consistent title, name, and category formats. Categorize and tag all your content. Organize content in the order that users are expected to complete it (left to right, top to bottom).
Ideally, provide search functionality so that users have multiple ways to get to their destination.
Get rid of “checklists of checklists”, usually these are documents that list “everything you have to do” but end up referencing other lists of “everything you have to do”. Instead, try to organize content in a natural way that learners should access them.
Avoid training on how to do the training. If the steps to do training is so complicated that it requires a training course, it might require simplification instead of more training.
Look and Feel
Company cultures can differ wildly and each company has their own way of working. This means different expectations, visuals, lingo, processes, relationships, and more. Do these things match your company’s culture and processes? If not, users might experience these discrepancies as “clunkiness”.
Plan design styles (graphics, writing, etc) that fit your company. Build your content to match real programs that are part of your company culture.
Collect information from your stakeholders.
Use guiding text and images, communication to steer your learners in the right direction.
User testing is a key step in implementing your LMS. Even if the LMS has been deployed in many companies already, you need to know that it fits YOUR company with YOUR training programs loaded.
Test with members of your target audience. There are many different methods for user interface testing but in general the point is to have members of your target audience to perform basic operations on the system and record their experience.
Are they accessing content the way you planned or are they finding another route? Are there key misunderstandings? Is there enough communication to help them find their way around?
An LMS can end up feeling clunky even if you did everything right in the design and building stages. Don’t let that get you down, it happens to lots of people. The important next step is to start looking for why users find the system clunky. These might not be obvious right away (otherwise it probably would have been caught during planning and development) and it’s important to keep an open mind (because the issue might not be something you expect). It can take time to identify the things that make your system feel “clunky” but it is worth it!