Your Online Training Materials Don’t Have to Suck

February 1, 2016

Training employees on your company’s complex website or application is a challenge many organizations need to tackle. Typically this online training consists of videos, clickable demos, quizzes and other interactive assets created to simulate and educate users in a controlled environment. Sometimes these training environments are much less effective than they could be. Sub-optimal training experiences lead to more support tickets, call center calls, and general frustration.

How do you know if you’re undermining the effectiveness of your online training? And how do you create and maintain a stellar online training experience in your organization?

In this Point of View article, we discuss ways to identify issues in your current online training materials, and what you can do to create a more effective training experience.

Common Online Training Mistakes and Ways to Fix Them

In the process of creating training demos and videos in a large organization, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see that result in unsuccessful online training materials.


Showing Outdated or Unnecessary Content

Even when content is evergreen, leading with dates that have long since past isn’t a great approach. “Copyright 2007” in your content isn’t going to generate a lot of trust. Your users may get distracted thinking, “When was the last time the site was even updated?” instead of paying attention to the training itself. Before producing your online training, always consider reviewing the content to optimize, edit, or delete irrelevant content. Dates are one easy content element to review prior to delivering and publishing training materials.


Providing Too Much or Too Little Detail

Finding the sweet spot of providing enough information to train users, but keep them from browsing Instagram instead can be challenging. As we know, readers struggle to read big paragraphs or blocks of content online. Consider breaking up training content into easily scannable, digestible chunks and providing clear and simple ways for users to track their progress so that they maintain their momentum. Once you’ve done these two things, consider usability testing your online training with a candidate set of training participants to see if you’re on track.


Recreating the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in Video Training Form

When it comes to online video, the shorter the better. We have found 3 minutes to be about the maximum length of time users are able to pay attention until they lose focus. If your videos are on the longer side, consider breaking them into several shorter videos and adding some interactive elements between them to keep users engaged. Keeping videos shorter is also helpful for making sense of video analytics as the longer the clip, the higher the chance of random user drop off points that defy explanation. In our experience, we see shorter videos proving more effective than not.


Neglecting to Feature Content or Functionality Your Users Need Most

If everyone complains that the “reset password” link is impossible to find, training materials should highlight that content. Your development team is in the midst of a year long implantation. It’s possible to develop training materials ahead of your development team. We can create a demo to that can be used to train users before the updates are live. We have seen this approach pay off for many of our customers.


Using a Coworker for the Voice Over Work

Bob has a great voice, there is no denying it. He also comes at a cheap price. But professional voice talent lends credibility to your demos, and is easier on the ears over the long haul. While it may seem like a great idea to save money but cutting a few corners, it rarely results in a professional training video. There are certain instances in which it is always worth the cost to use a professional, and the narration of your training materials is one of those instances. If your neighbor happens to be good at grilling you can enjoy his barbecues but you probably don’t want to hire him to cater a wedding.


Failing to Solicit (and Incorporate) User feedback

It’s a good idea to allow your training participants to subFit their feedback. You may have created training worthy of a Golden Globe, but you also probably missed the mark somewhere and said something in a way that was confusing or could be made more clear. Incorporating feedback from users into future trainings is sure to improve your product.


Ignoring Users with Physical or Cognitive Impairments

We see this a lot and it’s problematic on a number of levels. The larger the organization, the more likely there are employees with disabilities that need access to online training materials. In the past, the creation of accessible content was a daunting task. This is not the case anymore. There are myriad tools that users with disabilities can use to access your content. You should familiarize yourself with the latest accessibility techniques to keep your online training as Section 508 and WGAG-compliant as possible. Even simple changes such as addressing color blindness can have a major impact.


Going over Complex Topics Too Fast

Slow down there partner…that registration process takes longer than 4 seconds for actual users to complete. Take your time and enable your trainees to absorb the information. At the same time, don’t be afraid to skip over mundane parts of the experience like loading screens and wait times. Provide necessary detail and recognize that understanding complex processes and information takes users — especially users who are seeing something for the first time ever — a while to understand and absorb.


Using Outmoded Technology

Just because you have PowerPoint, doesn’t mean you have to use PowerPoint. The “kaleidoscope” transitions may be cool to look at, but it may also confuse some users or crash their machine. Included with PowerPoint training is a lot of missed opportunity to better train your users with engaging interactive content. And there really is no excuse in 2016 for using Adobe Flash. Techniques for creating online training materials have evolved—it’s now possible to easily develop online training with drama-free playback. If you’re using antiquated tools, you’re missing a lot of opportunities to more effectively train your users.

But what if your current online training materials truly need improvement and you don’t have time to remedy them yourself? Or what if (heaven forbid) you don’t have any to begin with? Then it’s a good idea to contact Crux Collaborative. We’ve created outstanding training videos and clickable demos for websites, applications, and handheld field testing equipment for over a decade. Let’s discuss options to create effective and engaging online training materials for your organization.

By Mike McClure
Director of Design + Development

Mike has been involved with user experience work since the early nineties. His experience spans the gamut, from strategy to UX development and front-end coding, to accessibility and animated guided tour videos.

View Mike's Bio


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