Years ago when I did video production, it seemed that every one of my customers wanted the final video to be like an MTV music video—fast moving with quick cuts. They didn’t seem to care much about whether or not that was the right approach; they just knew they wanted it to be like MTV. By the way, this was back when MTV actually showed music videos.
That was challenging enough because not every subject required an MTV-type video. However, a bigger challenge was when they had those expectations for the product but never shared them with me. I’d only find out later down the road that the project didn’t turn out the way they had envisioned it.
What’s in Your Client’s Head?
In today’s media-rich world, we’re exposed to all sorts of multimedia which helps inspire ideas for elearning course, but it also can create customer expectations. This can be a challenge when working with customers because many of them have preconceived ideas of what they want, whether or not it’s appropriate to the course or you have the resources to deliver it.
Also because they’re exposed to so much multimedia, they may have a mental model of what they want, but they’re not quite sure how to explain it. In those cases, they get more clarity by seeing things they DON’T want versus being able to identify what it is they DO want. Of course this can waste a lot of time if they’re waiting for you to design something before they tell you they don’t like it.
Get Them to Empty Their Cup
Before you invest too much time in prototyping some mock ups, get them to empty their cups, so to speak. Have them share as much as possible. Ask them to show you examples of what courses they like or have seen. Odds are that if they have a strong idea about what they want to do, then most likely they’ll have examples to pull from.
It’s also important to get a sense of their expectations. For example, if you’re working with a rapid elearning tool and they’re showing you something that has to be custom programmed in Flash, it’s good to know this before you invest too much time on the project.
Give Them Some Examples
Come prepared. Have some prototypes and treatments ready to share. After they share what they envision, pull out your demos.
I usually have three basic treatments that range from a nice-looking but simple course to something very interactive. This lets them see the options and it gives me a way to discuss the time required to build the different types of courses.
Provide a list of diverse elearning examples where they can see different approaches to elearning. Have them pick out the ones they like and the ones they don’t like and identify how they distinguished them.
It’s also a great way to identify different types of interactivity and approaches you can take with the course.
Brainstorm with Them
Build a real-time prototype while your client shares what they like. This is easy enough to do in a tool like PowerPoint. With it you’re able to create virtually any look and it’s easy to quickly build simple interactions. As they start to see their ideas come to life, they can offer more clarity about their expectations.
In the E-Learning Heroes community, David put together a simple visual design mind map activity. It’s a great tool to help come up with the right look and feel for your courses. It’s also a great tool to collaborate and brainstorm with your clients so that you can clarify their expectations and how they envision things to look.
For example, I’ve had plenty of projects where the client says, “This doesn’t look right,” or “We need more normal looking people.” These all subjective statements and you can waste a lot of time trying to clarify what “normal” means.
Use the visual design activity above to quickly brainstorm with your client. In the case of “normal looking” you can make a list of the types of people in the course and then copy and paste images from Google image searches and sites like istockphotos. It won’t take long to fill a page with the types of people the client considers “normal looking.”
This type of activity doesn’t take up much time. You’ll have the right images and you’ll also have a better understanding of what the client wants. A side benefit is that your client will probably be more engaged in the development process.
I know someone who built a prototype course which took some time to do. When the client saw it, he said that everything was “too American.” So the developer had to go back and redo much of the prototype. If she had done a brainstorm activity like the mind map above, she would have saved some time and started the project setting a different tone.
By helping your client clarify the mental model they have for the elearning course, you’ll build the course they desire and you’ll save lots of time during development.
What types of things do you do to get them to share their expectations on the look and feel of the course?
Upcoming E-Learning Events
- We'll be adding events for 2017 soon. If you'd like to see one of our workshops in your area just let me know.
- Mar 20 (Orlando). Want to learn to build courses with the right look & feel? Join David Anderson at his all day workshop on Graphic Design Essentials for Non-Graphic eLearning Designers.
- Mar 22-23 (Orlando). Come by the booth at Learning Solutions and say hello.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Variables Made Easy with Articulate Storyline. Limited seats, so sign up now.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Articulate User Meet Up. Details coming soon.
- April 14 (Minneapolis). PACT Meeting: Facing Today's Instructional Design Challenges.
Free E-Learning Resources
Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.
Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs
Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.