I know it is only the first full week of February, but just in the past month, a lot has been going on.  Most of it is positive, some is neutral, a few are negative (IMO).

It comes from fellow readers who send me e-mails or talk to me via social media. It comes from people I meet at events. It comes from me talking to vendors, buyers, monitoring the industry all the while taking notes and seeing the trends/patterns appear right before my eyes.

Web site stinks = product stinks

What has always amazed me are number of e-learning vendor web sites whose design looks like it came from 1995 when Netscape ruled the land. Frankly, it is unreal.  I mean look at any other industry, any industry and check out their vendors’ web sites.

I’d love to identify the top twenty worst LMS vendor web sites out there – but there are way too many to pick. The same for authoring tools.

You also can’t leave out m-learning platforms, assessment tool providers, web conferencing, audio conferencing and a couple social platforms.

Is it really that hard to make it user friendly and visual?

As a vendor you may say to yourself, “well it is not stopping anyone from contacting us or buying our products”, but you would be erroneous.

Here is what people have told me about poor web sites (most people bring up LMS vendors):

  • The site looks bad so the product must be bad as well – the most common comment I hear from people
  • I can’t see the product – no pure demo, and no screenshots – so the product must be poor
  • I can’t find what I am looking for, it is too confusing – so I leave
  • The screenshots are too small. I can’t click them to see them bigger. How is anyone supposed to see the product?
  • The site stinks – the product stinks

What is equally of note are the number of people who tie bad web site design to poor product. In just the past month, it is the most common statement I hear from folks.  Which then brings back the “well no one is complaining” comment.

  • Most people never complain. When I worked in radio, my program director told me less than 1% of your audience will ever call you
  • How often have you had someone train you or present a workshop – and they were awful – but you rated them as excellent?
  • Nowadays, you have 45 seconds to make an impression when someone visits your site – if they can’t find or see what they need – they are gone, so why would they contact you?
  • How many potential customers left without ever telling you? I will tell you – a lot!
  • When you visit a site – do you stick around if it looks dated?
  • Lastly, there is a reason people like the “WOW” factor in UI, the fresh, crisp and modern look – which is a continuing trend; they want it – so why would you keep your awful look at your web site, when you product doesn’t have it.

Some examples of cool web sites (this does not mean the product rocks – it may or may not – rather it is the look of the site)

LMS – this includes sites that show a fresh, modern look

  • OpenClass – you will notice that each screenshot can be expanded and you can also scroll to see more images to expand
  • Coggno
  • Administrate – granted it requires you to scroll down (not a fan) and has more text than needed, it still is a fresh and modern look
  • Litmos – modern look
  • Panopto – modern and crisp, I’d want to take a dive into the site
  • Seminar – modern look, but scroll down (wish it wasn’t) – however, I’d scroll down and explore
  • Upside Learning
  • aNewSpring – When you click “tour” you see the product by section

Authoring tools

App and Add-ons marketplaces

You knew it was only a matter of time, but vendors who offer apps for consumers to select is on the rise. The added twist is the ability for end users who have created apps to include them in the marketplace either free or fee based.

While content marketplaces have existed and are also increasing, the app side of the house is moving much quicker.  Here are the ways vendors are doing it (which explains why it works):

  • Vendors create their own apps – it maybe as simple as a new gadget such as learning game
  • Vendors include an API marketplace and list it within their app marketplace or as “add-ons”, “extras” – one vendor who does the extra angle quite well is aNewSpring
  • End users create their own apps and include them in the app marketplace so that other end users can select and add them into their product or authoring tool (the LMS and authoring tool spaces are the biggest app gainers)
  • Apps can be free or a small fee base – on the vendor side they typically are free, although I have seen one LMS vendor have freebies and fee base; on the end user side most are free, but I have seen fee based
  • We are not talking advanced apps here that cost a fortune to build – unless they come from a 3rd party company who is selling them – this is a new angle but I surmise it will grow by the end of 2013

What I really love about these new marketplaces is how easy it is to install them. The end user simply clicks “install” and it does it automatically.  Thus the end user does not have to deal with the vendor to get it installed nor deal with figuring out how to manually install it.  Simple and easy!

One authoring tool vendor who really hits a home run with apps is the app angle authoring tool – ZebraZapps which includes the app builder within the product.

If I wanted to get into the act, I would offer an app builder within my product – there are plenty of them out there or you can create your own – without dropping $$$$ to do so.

Quick Hits

Here are a few more items I’m seeing on the growth track

  • LMS vendors including content/courses at no additional charge – either they built it themselves, came from a 3rd party partner or a combination of both
  • Some vendors have it within a marketplace where the end user chooses what they want and simply click it to install automatically
  • Each end user in a LMS has the ability to personalize their pages, no more everyone gets it and that is it
  • An anti-Skillsoft attitude when it comes to finding 3rd party content, similar to those folks who are anti-Microsoft or anti-Internet Explorer
  • You knew it would happen – the anti-Facebook like page for social – Many people I have talked to recently mention this when it comes to social, I recently had a client who told me they wanted social but not a Facebook like page
  • Social tied to groups, individual courses and alike – Topyx was the first to do this, now others are starting to follow
  • No sales follow-up; when I was at TK13 I repeatedly heard this from folks, this is always has been a huge problem in the space, but apparently it is on the rise – especially with those who do not follow up on a phone message (beyond the standard lack of e-mail or contact us forms on sites)
  • Languages included – no more you select your preferred language and then pay a fee for each additional language, now vendors are including numerous languages: either as a language pack or what is becoming more common – automatically with the system at no additional charge

Bottom Line

We are only six weeks into the new year and already trends are appearing right before our eyes. Some are a continuation from the previous year, many are not.

This is an exciting time to be in the e-learning space.

An exciting time, indeed.

E-Learning 24/7