Should you side with "ease of creation" or "focus on the learner"?

See my screenr (  for some more information on this from the designer's point of view.

Asked of learners:

Given the 2 options below….

As a learner, you have 3 choices to pick from (example: Read, Observe, Speak).  When you click a choice you get some info.  Click another choice get different info.  At the end of all 3 choices you have a “clearer” picture of what is going on.

Would you want/or be able to (as a learner) to just click through the 3 options and move on.  Or.  Would you rather have a little check mark come up so you know what you have looked at.

5 Replies
Tracy Parish

Some of my learners' responses:

  • I like the idea of the check mark as a “checkpoint” if you are working on this and get interrupted then at least you know where you are and it keeps it clear….

  • I think the check marks are helpful!

  • Check mark so I know which one I have done as there are only three options



    Click thru!  ( for "less work for me"

I have a strong feeling that I need not even ask the experts.  I better get working on the 20 slides. 

Tracy Parish
  • I like the idea of a ‘visited’ state for each option, similar to links on a website, so I know that I have been there without looking at it again.
  • With only 3 options.. I would say that you don’t need the check marks.  (unless you’re having a 51st Dates moment)
  • I like the no checkmark option. The checkmark may just confuse people as to why it’s there. Hopefully with just 3 choices people can remember what they’ve looked at!

(The responses continue to be mixed.)

Jeanette Brooks

Hi Tracy! Interesting dilemma. Without knowing all the intricacies of your situation, it sounds like maybe the checkmark is more of a nicety than a non-negotiable. What will the learners gain (in terms of how much they retain, or the richness of their experience, etc.) if you do add the checkmarks? And how does that possible benefit compare with the downsides... such as the work involved in creating all the duplicate slides and the hyperlinked menus, the increased publishing time because of the larger number of slides, and also the challenges that can arise if a slide needs to be updated (because then you need to update the duplicates too).

That said, if you did go with the duplicate slides, one way you could get around the issue of having to change/maintain multiple slides in the event of an update, is by placing the detailed info for each of the three options on a slide master instead of on the slide itself. You'd still need to create a lot of slides, but at least you could centralize some of the content by applying the appropriate slide master to each one. This way you could possibly avoid having to go in and edit multiple duplicates every time you need to make a change.

Lani Flores


I manage software development projects for a living.  In my role, I frequently have to arbitrate user interface design issues similar to the one you described. 

The good news: since your design dilemma isn't a safety/mandatory learning issue, you can't go wrong either way (checkmark or no checkmark).  The bad news:  if you rely on users opinion to resolve this design dilemma, users will (almost always) overwhelmingly decide in favor of having the "checkmark" --- regardless if the checkmark is a highly valuable functionality or not.  

It's easy to understand the psychology behind -- why learners would choose the checkmark functionality (and find great reasons for its usefulness). Given two identical objects: 

(1) Object with no bonus

(2) Object with bonus

Virtually, everyone  will choose #2.    These options don't have a cost to the users/learners.  When two objects are priced the same,  the "bonus" will always sound better than the "no bonus".  Thus, design dilemmas are usually difficult to resolve at this level of choice.

To make a sound design design decision,  the choices should be weighted with comparable values. 

Let's take the "tab checkmark or no checkmark"  question in the world of tangible objects. Supposed we're selling two models of running shoes to the learners.  The shoes are identical except for an extra feature on the second one.

Option 1:

Running shoes.

Price: $100 

Estimated delivery: 1 day

Option 2:

Running shoes with a tiny GPS that remembers the last 3 places you have been.

Price: $2,000

Estimated delivery: 4 weeks

Which one would the buyers (learners) choose?   How strong is the need for the GPS to make the 20x premium worth paying for? When you frame decisions in terms of comparable values, you are more likely to receive less-noisy feedback.

From a project management perspective, I side with Jeanette Brooks.   The lifecycle of technological products (ex. software, eLearning courses) are quite short.  These products need upgrades, updates,  revisions, rewrites.  We have to take into account:

1.  Maintainability

2.  Time to deliver

And lastly, from a technical perspective -- (as you are already aware) Powerpoint is ill-equipped to handle tracking of user states.  Just because we can simulate this function in Powerpoint,  doesn't mean we should.   It's like using a knife to cut down a tree. The tool can achieve the objective but at an exorbitant cost.