Sharing a leaf from our sketchbooks: How and why the Elucidat design team starts with design concepts

Ready to discover inside tips on how to create great digital learning concepts by taking a leaf, quite literally, out of our in-house design experts’ books? We share snaps of our storyboards, wireframes and mindmaps to help explain different methods to explore, prototype and test out ideas upfront.

We may know Elucidat like we know the back of our mouse, but we still love to explore ideas and plan out structures on paper and in collaborative docs. Why? Well, great digital learning isn’t about content. It comes from solid ideas that target the real needs of a project and its audience(s).

We find that to get the right kind of learning experience, it’s often best to first explore, refine, test out and collaborate with others via storyboards, wireframes, mind maps – or just good ol’ descriptive words. Plus, it just helps us get our ideas straight as part of the creative process.

You can then build out the design extra fast – either directly in the tool, or via more detailed scripting.

Capturing needs: Why we start with shaping the problem

When we work with customers on their digital learning projects, we often play the annoying consultant card; the one where we ask loads of questions.

  • What is the real aim for this project?
  • What’s the learning trying to do?
  • Who is it for? What are they like? What might motivate/help them?
  • Do learners all need to do the same thing as a result?
  • What kind of experience does this need to be to help make that change? etc. etc.

Why are we so nosy? Well, because we know that when you’re armed with a super clear vision around the needs, activities and type of experience your learning project needs to have, there’s a much greater chance of creating something that is a success. And, by knowing more, we can help you get there.

Download this free Capture Needs Template

Conceptualizing: Then we shape the solution

With the audience and their needs at the front of our minds, we then often map out the big ideas and concepts on paper – yes, real paper – and in collaborative digital docs and tools.

Surely that takes longer?

Actually, when we map out concepts upfront, we’re often talking about 30 – 90 minutes of really focused time. It’s time that’s really well spent in a project life-cycle, and in many cases it acts as rapid prototyping and enables you to test out approaches to find the best way forward.

Five quick reasons we love upfront concept creation

Fail fast, succeed faster – Sometimes you can discount an idea in 10 minutes that would have taken a couple of hours to build out. Working on paper lets you fail fast – and therefore succeed faster too (and perhaps save some budget).

You say potato, I say pro-to-type – Even the tightest teams have differences in opinion. Get them all out on the table upfront. Often, people respond to something they can see, feel and experience. So, we love fast prototyping in Elucidat for this reason. Especially since you can get the audience involved.

Focus on the solution over content – Get the big picture in place that focuses on fixing the problem and needs of the audience, before turning to the minutiae. Do it the other way around, and you risk drowning your audience in content that may or may not be relevant and easy to use.

Get everyone aligned – Collaborative tools are ace, but they work even better if the team has a shared vision. You’ll find quality and speed leap forward if you provide or jointly create a framework or exemplar for everyone to work toward.

You can get real data! – You can test out a rapid prototype created in Elucidat with real customers, and get the lowdown via Analytics. Get stats and feedback by including a quick survey at the end.

Some real examples from our team

Here are some snapshots from our sketchbooks and collaborative docs to show you how we approach concept design.

Mind-mapping: This plots out the types of learning activities that will help stop employees from making key mistakes at work, then develops into mini Elucidat wireframes.

Storyboarding 1: Creating a clear structure for the content upfront – and considering where pages need to branch off for personalized learning routes – speeds up the authoring process.

Storyboarding 2 (text-version): An alternative way to structure content, taking a word-based approach to plotting out a branching scenario.

Wireframing: Mapping out the details of each page as a simple wireframe (in Google docs) enables teams to get a sense of scope and flow, and collaborate on ideas. It also gives content authors a framework to design from.

Visual styling: Here are two examples of different visual styles created in Elucidat, to test out with an audience. We prefer to create styling in Elucidat so that UX, layouts, content and branded styling can all be experienced together, as they would by learners.

As part of our Branded Design Service, Debbie will put together an on-brand style in Elucidat, then quickly refine it with the advanced controls once we have more input and details about the design.

Prototyping in Elucidat makes sense too, right?

Of course it does. And that’s why we offer our popular Concept Creator Service to help bring an exemplary approach to life in Elucidat, quickly. When it comes to creating a prototype that people can experience – getting a sense of the look, feel, flow, structure and content all in one – you can’t beat a super-fast collaborative tool for getting there quickly. Plus, because it’s cloud-based, you don’t have to publish via an LMS in order to test out an idea with your learners.

We often storyboard or wireframe first, but not always. Our pre-boarding example was created directly in Elucidat, for example, because we had a clear vision in mind.

Final tips

We aren’t all graphic designers (you may be able to tell from the examples!). Yet for us, having a way to explore, structure and refine our ideas is an imperative step in the creative process. It’s also the case that prototyping – whether on paper or via an easy to use a tool like Elucidat – helps ensure your design is solid (enough) before you get stuck into detailed content authoring.

See here for an in-depth guide to successful elearning development processes.

For some, iterative or collaborative approaches can feel scary, seemingly slower or too costly. But with the right tools that make exploration and edits easy, we find that testing out concepts and designs helps speed up the production phase and increases customers’ chances of meeting those all-important audience and business needs. Especially when you can collate real user data and then reshape your design around it.

Besides, we’re not talking about spending weeks creating in-depth designs, full blown design documents and lengthy presentation meetings. We’re mostly talking about rapid, collaborative concept creations that can be quickly shared, tested and tweaked.

As for our examples, Debbie, Georgie and myself all had our notebooks raided. Bonus points to anyone who can match each of these examples to the right Elucidat consultant. Clue: I have bad handwriting, but I’m not the only one who does. 😉


Take a look at our 5C Framework – a smarter way to design elearning

You’ve seen our mind-maps, but have you tried Cathy Moore’s fantastic Action Mapping methods?

Also check out two related articles to find out more about:

Turn what you know about your audience’s needs into a vision for an effective piece of learning by downloading our Conceptualize guide:

CTA Conceptualize Guide elearning