3 Undeniable Facts About Aesthetics in eLearning (& Flamingos)

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J1Over millions of years, the natural world has evolved so we can adapt perfectly to our surroundings. First man could crawl, then stand, then text while walking. In the animal world, evolution peaked at the chameleon – a miracle of nature that can blend in anywhere simply by changing the colour of its skin, allowing it to go completely unnoticed.

Then, in about 1982, the flamingo came along and wrecked all of that. Nature has never offered a reasonable explanation for why a metre-tall, shocking pink bird exists. But who cares? The flamingo doesn’t even try to fit in. He knows he’s a big deal and flaunts his feathers about like a beaked Kardashian. We can all learn from this.

Everyone likes to look at beautiful things like Mr Flamingo. They make our brains react positively, which in turn makes the brain work better. This is why glossy magazines put attractive people on the cover. Their dazzling looks reel us in so we buy the magazine. Or at the very least take it from a dental surgery.

Dentists aside, to really capture the public’s imagination, you should be doing the same with your eLearning’s aesthetics. Which brings us to our fun flamingo fact number one…

Flamingo Fact 1: Flamingos are not an endangered species. In fact their numbers are remarkably stable.

Yep, flamingos are doing great by standing out from the crowd. But you know what’s dying out? A third of the world’s chameleon species, that’s right. Just like these magic lizards think they can do the bare minimum and look exactly the same as everything else, eLearning punishes unoriginality in the same way. If you’re boring and just ‘fit in’ what’s the point? No one will take notice of you and you’ll eventually disappear.

pulseEvery serious business with eLearning to roll out, should make their user interface a thing of beauty. Think Michelangelo meets Steve Jobs. Because aesthetics evoke positive emotions. And these emotions make users more motivated, less frustrated and help them enjoy learning more. That way, all learners will get the best possible results. Done! Easy.

Wait, wait, wait. This doesn’t mean you just create any old nonsense. Yes, if your interface were to look like some tie-dye, dadaist monstrosity even Lady Gaga would be embarrassed by, then sure it would stand out. But not in a good way. The flamingo may be startling, but at the end of the day, it’s still a bird. So there’s a few constraints to bear in mind.

Firstly, the brain loves symmetry, so it can go into autopilot and process other information. If there’s no pattern, your brain will treat the interface as a distracting puzzle and, instead of absorbing the important learning material, will just give up. I want to get to the juicy stuff, not navigate my way through a magic eye puzzle (all that work just to see a floating dolphin? If I wanted to see a dolphin that much, I’d google it).

Secondly, you might think font size, typography and other words from the Microsoft Office glossary are fairly unimportant. But they’re not! 45% of consumers make judgements about a site’s credibility based on these variables. And in just 3.2 seconds. They’ll either be hooked or zone out before you can say ‘I wonder if the dental receptionist noticed the magazines under my arm?’ Users can tell who hasn’t bothered to make their content look good. So why should they waste their time on it?

Worried it’s too late to do anything about your brand’s appearance? Time for flamingo fact number two…

Flamingo Fact 2: Flamingo chicks are born grey with white feathers. They don’t turn pink for a year or two.

So fear not, you too can become a beautiful pink flamingo soon. It’s never too late to create your brand’s look, but the sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll reap the rewards.

You wouldn’t go out in stinky clothes or with lipstick streaked over your forehead. It would reflect badly on you. In the same way, the uglier your content is, the uglier your brand looks. Makeover time! As well as being beautiful, all content should fit your brand in a way which is distinctive and reflective of company values. If done right, people will be able to recognise it without even seeing your name. Looking good! You’ve still got lipstick on your head though. Sit still, I’ll get it…

So make sure your site is attractive. Make sure your LMS looks good. Unique. Symmetrical. Shiny. A good question to ask before you finish with the aesthetics of your content is ‘would a magpie steal this?’ If the answer is no, then why not? You give that magpie no chance but to rob you blind.

Think that’s the end of the facts or the bird stuff? Hey, one more for good measure.

Flamingo Fact 3: After mating, the male and female flamingo build a nest together and take it in turns to sit on the egg

… Actually, no, that one’s not really relevant.

The important thing is, when it comes to your business’s aesthetics – be a flamingo, not a chameleon. And soon enough, thousands will flock to look at you.

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Juliette Denny is the Managing Director of Growth Engineering. Her focus is on building technology solutions that engineer growth for clients, whilst making learning fun for learners. Follow her on Twitter and let her know whether you liked the article!

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