'Click next to continue' instruction - patronising or useful?

I've inherited quite a few 'read and click next' courses that I've been asked to update and publish.

I'm not a big fan of this format and haven't used it much - but I'm not going to have time to reformat all of the courses.

My question is: do I need 'click next to move to the next screen' or similar on each slide, or is this generally considered an obvious instruction?

Another option is to put a note at the start saying 'Use the previous and next buttons to navigate this course' or similar.

Of course, I could always disable the next and previous buttons and add my own that appear when learners need to move on.

What do people recommend?

All ideas welcome.

19 Replies
Nicole Legault

Hi Katherine!

Thanks for posting your question here. I'm sure you'll get all kinds of opinions on this, but here's my suggestion:

Call out the navigation buttons at the very start of the course, when they first appear, and if the rest of the navigation buttons are always in the same location and same function, I don't think you need to  point them out again. Once at the start should be enough, in my opinion. 

Your other comment about disabling the next and previous buttons is a separate topic, and also one that generates a lot of opinions and sometimes controversy. I personally don't like "forcing" people to watch each slide in it's entirety, I like to give the learner more freedom and control and instead I try to keep them engaged and interested by using proper instructional design and appropriate interactivity.  However, if this is simply linear "click-next" style content that is totally uninteresting, maybe you should lock the navigation because there's a bigger chance people will just skip right through in this case. 

Can't wait to hear other community members thoughts on this!

Simon Blair

I strongly agree with removing the reminder text on anything beyond the first page... as a general rule. If your users managed to find and click the next button once, I have every confidence they can do so again.

Up until 6 months ago, I'd have been in favour of completely removing any reminder text about the previous/next button. As Phil pointed out, your users are capable of using web browsers, DVD players and so on.

About 6 months ago, out organization released a global e-Learning course for internal staff. In many countries where we operate, this was the first internal e-Learning employees had taken. We got a lot of feedback from some regions about people not knowing how to progress in the course. It's worth pointing out that we use custom previous/next buttons, but they are (I'd have thought) intuitive - two arrows (pointing left and right) in the lower-right corner of the page.

That said, I love Ant's suggestion of showing the reminder on a delay, so that the people who need it get it, but the rest won't feel patronized.

Also, I like Norm's idea (if I understood correctly) or animating the next button when all the slide content is done. It gives a good cue that the user can move on without fear of missing anything. Although, like Nicole said, I'd be wary of disabling it. It can be intensely frustrating if your user backs up just to check something, then has to wait for all the animations to play before going to the next slide. What if the button was always present, but blinked when the timeline finished?

Jackson Hamner

Just me 2 cents, I think that adding the next button to every slide is unnecessary, but it has a time and a place.

The 'Click Next to Continue' instructions throughout the course serves a duel purpose of reminding the learner how to navigate(for those slower or forgetful learners out there) and alerting the learner when the slide they're on is finished and they can safely navigate forward. I like to put them at the end of a slide/slides where it isn't necessarily obvious to the learner that its time to move forward. For instance, slides with videos or where the learner has little interaction with the course itself.

Chet Poulton

I most generally use both Next/Previous buttons and the Progress/Scroll bar with the Play/Pause /Rewind buttons (visual design permitting, of course). The Next/Previous buttons give the user an obvious indicator for navigation. The Progress/Scroll bar provides a visual indication of when the instruction is complete, plus it provides the user with the ability to scroll back through or replay the content if additional clarification is needed. All of this is done without any obvious "patronizing" of the end user.

Also, I believe a bit of "self-discovery" or allowing less tech-savvy end users to figure out simple things on their own, gives them a subtle sense of self-accomplishment which helps to reinforce the learning experience.

Jenn Barnett-Russell

I agree with Nicole and I think that most types of navigation instruction are viewed as 'clutter' by millennials.  The fact of the matter is, millennials make up a HUGE part of most audiences now and they know how things SHOULD work.  If your design is intuitive in the first place, millennials don't need instructions.  BUT on the other hand, a huge part of our audience can also be of an age where they didn't grow up using technology regularly in their lives or at school, so they may need more guidance.  So I think this issue really depends greatly upon WHO your audience will be.

In my own courses, probably 75% of my audience is millennials, while 25% is 'other'.  What I do is don't put instructions on the slide, but I have 2 things:

  • A "?" marker, that gives the instruction when hovered over
  • A click outside trigger for the next button that will show the instructions if when the timeline is finished the user clicks outside the next button

Both of these solutions can just be cut and pasted and applied throughout a course very quickly.  This way instructions are easily accessible to those who need it, while those who don't need them will never see it. 

Tonya Weathers

My perspective is a a bit different on this topic. I have worked in many roles where I provided some type of IT support. Whether it was IT training or help desk services, I always came across people of all ages and experience levels who just didn't get the simple things (even as simple as a Next/Previous button or scroll bars). 

That experience has helped me tremendously when designed e-learning content because I never forget those people. Sometimes I forget, and end up designing a course with little to no instructions or just hover-over hints. Yet, through evaluations and user feedback, I'm always reminded that instruction is a must. 

Just another perspective...

Dana Kocalis

I have also experienced, like Tonya, an audience with varying degrees of computer knowledge, some didn't know how to use a mouse and others were experts.   I think it depends on your audience, my computer challenged audience worked in manufacturing (on the line) and a majority of them, it was their first time that they had experienced a computer for themselves.  I would agree to put instructions at the beginning and I also like Ant's idea of putting a friendly reminder if they linger on a slide "too long". 


Alexandros Anoyatis

I try to use the best of both worlds when I can. In many cases, I've seen navigation instructions being used so excessively that they look like a course by themselves - that puts people off right out of the bat.

On the other hand, you have to cater for the non-initiated learners, as Tonya suggests, too.

In some respects, the question could be "How do we cater for both worlds" without treating users with a certain familiarity like idiots, while also helping the novice crowd.

My approach on this is to give context sensitive help, instead of a whole "this is how it works" mini-lesson. I try to keep it under 5 seconds if I can, usually by dimming the slide and using hand gesture icons. I find this to be non-intrusive for an experienced user, and encouraging to the amateur user.

Just my 2c,

Alexandros Anoyatis

My approach on this is to give context sensitive help, instead of a whole "this is how it works" mini-lesson. I try to keep it under 5 seconds if I can, usually by dimming the slide and using hand gesture icons. I find this to be non-intrusive for an experienced user, and encouraging to the amateur user.

Building on Alexandros' approach... I like to start out the course with... the course content. On the opening page, I add an obvious button: "click here to learn how to navigate this course". The button opens the quick navigation tour in a lightbox slide. This way users who have been through my courses before or are savvy enough to figure it out can jump right in and those that need help can get it.

I also edit the player to add a link to the lightbox slide and call it "Navigation Help" so it is visible and accessible throughout the course directly in the player (typically in the upper right hand side).

Gloria Jackson

I agree with Tonya, which is why I include instructions on navigating the course with every course and make them easily accessible no matter where they may be within a course.  I make the instructions available at the beginning and throughout  by embedding it within the resources or attachment tab.  I make no assumptions about a users ability; doing so can wreck havoc on user support time. Expert users can skip instructions, while novice users can view them as many times as needed, until they are comfortable with navigating our courses. The instructions detail the player template and all the buttons they may encounter. 

Angela Kaufman

I would prefer to leave it out, but I am working at a company that is new to eLearning. (I know... welcome to the 21st century, right?). My solution was to add a Training Instructions link to the Player which I call out at the beginning of the course. When the learner clicks it, a lightbox opens with detailed instructions about the navigation, duration, etc. 

I agree with the others that as long as they are always in the same place, most users can find it for themselves.


Brandie Jenkins

My opinion on this is that it depends on the user analysis. If you are developing for a group of users who are familiar with eLearning, navigation instructions will mean very little to them. On the other hand, most of my clients that I have been working with recently are either fairly new to eLearning, or they have to meet 508 compliance requirements. In these cases, it is necessary to include navigation instructions.