While navigating an e-learning course, have you ever become stuck on a slide, unsure of what to do or where to click? If you have, you were the victim of poorly designed e-learning navigation. E-learning courses should have simple and straightforward navigation that doesn’t leave learners guessing their next move. To help illuminate the path for your learners, here are some tips for creating crystal-clear navigation in your next course.

Offer a course navigation tour

Within the first few slides of your course, provide a tour or brief explanation of how to navigate. It can be as simple as text boxes with instructions, or arrows that point out the buttons they need to click to advance. You may want to also highlight a help feature, a way to exit the course, and any other navigational information that would help the learner.

Depending on your audience, you may want to make the navigation tour optional. But it’s always a wise option to include it for learners who feel more comfortable advancing when they know what to expect.

Provide one clear way forward

Learners can become confused when there are multiple ways to navigate on one slide. For example, is there a “Next” button in your slide navigation controls, but also a “Continue” button on your slide? If so, consider removing one of the two, and only allow your learners one clear way forward at all times. When there’s only one path to take, it avoids a lot of “What do I do?” moments. If it’s a tricky or unique slide, you can also include text callouts where necessary to indicate the user’s next step.

Be consistent with layout and placement

A clear and consistent navigation layout will help your learners make quick decisions about where to go next in your course. Your navigation links should be in the same place on every slide. For consistent positioning, you can either use the player’s built-in navigation controls, or the slide master for buttons and links that appear across multiple slides. This will ensure that your elements don’t jump around from one slide to the next.

Use short and descriptive titles

Content is easier to digest when it’s presented in short, direct messages that don’t need to be deciphered. As such, label your navigation icons and links clearly. Use action verbs to indicate what the user is going to do, and be short and direct with your labels. For example, label the button “Start Quiz” instead of “Click Here to Begin the Lesson One Quiz.”

Let learners know where they stand

When you’re deep into an e-learning course and have no idea how far you’ve gone, how much longer it’s going to take, or whether the course will ever end, you can feel pretty disoriented and discouraged. Give learners ways to view their progress through the course, or provide them with periodic updates about how far they’ve come and how much content is still ahead. Those details make a big difference to help keep learners motivated and interested.

Test your navigation thoroughly

Before you publish and share your course with learners, do a thorough testing of your navigation. You may consider enlisting a few colleagues who have never seen the course, to get their impartial feedback on navigation. Observe where they were unsure or stuck, and then make improvements. Click through your course every way possible: try every button and link. Test every navigation path your learner could potentially follow, and fix any linking errors. Sometimes a slide looks great the first time you view it, but then later on you realize it needs to “reset to initial state” instead of “resume saved state.”

These tips will help you design clear navigation for your e-learning course that’s easy for your learners to use. Keep in mind, learners who don’t have to worry about navigating your course can focus on its awesome content!

Remember, you can always sign up for a fully functional, free trial of Articulate software. And don’t forget to post your questions and comments in the forums! We’re here to help. For more e-learning tips, examples, and downloads, follow us on Twitter.