Simplicity…and using simplicity to build a brand!

Anyone who ever listens to me in any of the things I do, whether it be VLE related stuff, e-learning development, or even print design should hopefully notice the common theme – I like things to be simple. In my head I’m happy for things to be complicated, I’m happy to deal with spreadsheets of 0.5m+ rows of data – but when it comes to usage and learning, the simpler the better.

In my last post I talked about the way in which our Moodle site has transformed over the past few years. At the time of writing, I wasn’t able to share the view of the screen as we hadn’t quite finished (if the truth be told, we’re still working, and I hope that we always continue to work to make it the best it can be) – but we were able to get it to a state in which we were happy for it to go live:

The idea came from a Theme design session I did during the Moodle Moot in Dublin. By pure chance I was sat near to Jo Barnes – who I had never met or spoken to before, and with the exception of one tweet, I’ve not spoken to him since then. But talking to Jo, he suggested that he wanted to make his Moodle as simple to use as possible – and then we started to talk about the simplest learning site that exists……Google….and from there, the design for the theme was sown. The redesign was everything I wanted to deliver – the options were still there at the top for anyone who actually wants to navigate through the site categories to find a course, but for the majority of users – the simplest route was right in front of them, the search box. The search box had always been on our front screen – just before it was hidden below a carousel and a twitter feed – so by moving it up into the centre, it made it more accessible, and more easy to use. Most of our users come to our site knowing exactly what they want – so I wanted to help them get there quickly – not make them work to get there. However, the bit that matters is how well it works, the the early feedback was exactly what I wanted to see:

Most encouragingly – the offline verbal feedback has been equally positive – all the people that never realised there was a search function are now finding it.

The other big win for us was the introduction of the cover image. During our test stage, we had originally planned to keep the carasoul, however as we talked to staff about it, they highlighted that although we always talked about “The VLE” – nowhere on the site did it mention the Virtual Learning Environment. For this reason, we decided to build the brand of our site using cover images which we could change weekly to promote a bit of “something different”. The result so far has been really good, with people appreciating the site looking a bit different each week. A couple of the first ones are shown below:






These cover images are just a little bit of fun for us to roll out, but really give a sense of brand to the site, and enforce the environment as the single portal for all education at UHS – which is what we originally set out to do all those years ago!

As usual, comments below or on Twitter if you’ve got anything to say!