Stine Sandbo is Motimate Creative Studio’s resident expert in learning content design. With a Masters in Pedagogy, the method and practice of teaching, she knows just how important well-thought-out design and communication is to creating successful online learning. Stine has made it her mission to help learning teams everywhere design and deliver the best learning content that they possibly can.

Developing software training can feel like a daunting task. You’ve gathered your technical information, you know who you’re training and why you’re doing it, but now you need to turn this into a learning experience that users will engage with and find easy to follow. Where do you start?

I’ve put together some practical guidance and a helpful checklist to help you create software training that will hit the mark, because, as we know, online training has its own specific set of design considerations. 

We need to consider that people may be learning on-the-go, in real-time, and in busy or loud environments. We also need to factor in shorter learning times and attention spans.  With this in mind, I’ll be zooming in on three important aspects of creating engaging software training:

  1. How to motivate your learners 
  2. How to engage your learners 
  3. How to help them retain the learning

How to Design Software Training That Works

1. Set the scene, outline the purpose, and highlight the benefits

It’s important to engage learners right from the beginning. If you don’t seize their attention from the word ‘go’, you’re going to struggle to engage them with the rest of the training. 

Get straight to the point. Make it clear what benefit the learner is going to get from completing the training – what are they going to learn and how is it going to make their life better, their job easier?

Developing your elevator pitch can be a useful way of doing this. An elevator pitch is a statement of intent that you would be able to recite in a 60 second lift ride before losing your captive audience to the world outside. 

You might choose to deliver this statement of intent in video format, using text, or a combination of both, but either way, keep it short. 

2. Give the training a face 

Introducing yourself to the learner with a photograph or selfie video at the beginning of the course establishes human connection, engaging learners and helping them place the learning in context. It’s a reminder that behind the training is a person who has created it with them in mind. You could even appear more than once during the training, or interview a colleague or two to create variety and encourage learners to keep going!

3. Break up the learning and keep it short

Our attention spans can be short, and we can only absorb so much information at one time. Applying the principles of micro-learning can help offset these factors. 

Micro-learning is all about delivering learning in small chunks – one lesson at a time. Chunking up the learning in this way and not trying to cover too much ground at once helps us absorb and retain information. In a sense, this enables us to file the information away in our brains more easily. 

Diversifying content types is also a micro-learning principle. Where it makes sense, try breaking up the learning by using multiple content blocks and including different content formats based on imagery, videos, screen recordings, games and quizzes. 

When it comes to videos and screen recordings keep them short. Films should be no longer than 1 – 2 minutes long. If you have a lot to cover, it is better to use multiple short films than one long film that tries to cover everything.

4. Keep your content formats simple

Generally, when creating software training, designers tend to default to video, but you might not always need to use video. Sometimes using images to guide learners through a step-by-step approach can be just as effective. In some cases, it can work well to use a combination of video and imagery.

To decide on the best approach, try storyboarding your ideas. Create a sequence of drawings and directions representing the direction of travel and intent of the training. This should help you understand what content formats to use and where. 

5. Accommodate different learning styles

Because different people learn best in different ways (visual, audio, kinaesthetic), consider including text below your videos, with step-by-step instructions. No matter a person’s personal preference, having the information presented in different ways helps reinforce the learning by stimulating different parts of the brain.

Including subtitles on videos is also something to consider – for reasons of hearing impairment or because your learners might be training in busy or loud environments. 

6. Make sure the training is easy to navigate and follow 

Software training can sometimes be hard to follow. Help learners stay on track by making  the training easy to navigate. Here are some tips to help you do just this:

  • Use callouts to highlight areas of a video or image that you want to focus attention on, by outlining or boxing this element.
  • When creating screen recordings or including images try zooming in and out on specific elements depending on where you want the learners to look. So, say you want to focus on a specific button in your screen recording, zoom in on that button while you are talking and recording to help learners focus on what matters, then zoom out again.
  • When creating screen recordings, consider enlarging the mouse cursor to help your learners follow the training more easily. 

7. Make the most of Motimate’s Hotspots feature 

The Hotspots content block is a quiz feature. Using Hotspots, you can drop images into your training and ask learners to click on the part of the photo that they think answers the question or challenge. You might add a screenshot of a feature from your training and ask your learners to identify the element that achieves a goal in a specific scenario. 

Hotspots are a great way of getting learners to interact with the training and help commit information to memory. Consider what elements of your content would be enhanced by such an interactive approach. 

8. Never compromise on sound quality 

It’s essential that the training is supported by good sound quality. In some ways, sound quality is more important than picture quality because it prompts emotional engagement with the content. Sound establishes the tone and creates the mood of every video and screen recording in your training. If a film has no sound, it becomes very difficult for a person to follow for long. 

Make sure your sound quality is up to scratch. Get to know your recording equipment properly before you start recording and test the sound. If it’s not good enough, find the right equipment. 

 9. Always edit your content 

It’s important to review and edit your video, text, and audio content to keep it short and to the point. You will probably find that you can edit out a significant amount of unnecessary material – written words and surplus audio time (pauses and chatting).  Good editing will help you keep the training relevant so you can keep your learners engaged. 

 10. Make the training attractive 

Training that looks dull, is dull. Liven it up with a visually dynamic and colourful interface, using colours, Gifs and fun images. Drawing on your company’s image library can be a good way of including images that people recognise and find more engaging.

You can use Motimate’s PosterBlocks feature to edit your photos, create headers and make everything look a little bit more fun and engaging. 

If you’ve found this article helpful, you can download my handy free checklist to share and follow next time you are designing software training.