Dick Handshaw, President at Handshaw, Inc., is a consultant, speaker, author, and champion for real innovation and quality in instructional design. He is a pioneer in the field, with more than 35 years of experience as a learning and performance improvement professional and entrepreneur. Dick has served as a consultant for many organizations to help them establish a results-oriented learning strategy, methodology, and practice.
Last time we talked about how and when to use mobile devices in a larger training strategy that will leverage their strengths of accessibility and immediacy. This week, let’s look at how mobile devices impact resource design. There are a few unique characteristics that you should keep in mind as you design mobile resources: small screen size, touch capabilities, and synchronization.
Small Screen Size Tablets have screens comparable in size to small notebook computers, but mobile phone screen sizes vary wildly, from as small as 320 x 240 pixels on some Blackberries to as large as 640 x 960 on the iPhone. With less real estate, every element added must be meaningful and intentional. Keep your content direct to limit extra text and keep images and videos small enough that they can be viewed without scrolling.
Many newer devices also replace the physical keyboard with a digital version that appears when needed and can require up to half the screen space on a mobile device. Avoiding text entry interactions removes this concern.
Touch Capabilities Touch screens add a fun, interactive element to your resources with the right planning. Your learners will be using one fingertip for control, so size and space elements with this in mind. Try this: move your mouse pointer to the darker border of this blog and place your finger next to it on the screen. See the size difference? That is how much bigger your clickable elements have to be.
Fingertip control comes with different functionality, too. Think through how your learners will interact with the resource as you design it: a rollover is a great way to present information, but not if the screen prevents them from accessing it. Clicks, swipes, and drag-and-drops will work the same using a mouse or a touch screen.
Synchronization Most users synch their devices so that they can access the same resources on their phone, tablet, and desktop. Job aids, databases, and other mobile resources should also be tested on traditional computers to ensure learners will have access to the same help in any situation.
It is also common to use more than one device at once. If an employee is experiencing software troubles, a troubleshooting resource on their mobile device will allow them to look at both screens at once. Using images and instructions that can be directly compared from one screen to another can be a powerful intervention.
Matching the right design with the right purpose will help your mobile learning strategy grow to become a valuable, effective resource for your learners.
Part two of two
Peter Engels, Instructional Designer/Developer, Handshaw, Inc.