8 questions to ask before choosing an authoring tool

If your organization relies on your delivering elearning content to a paying audience, the authoring tool that you use can dramatically impact both the learner experience and your bottom line.

what to look for authoring tool

Here are 10 questions that you should ask before choosing an authoring tool for your business.

1. Is it easy to use?

The tool you select should be simple to use. When your subject matter experts (SMEs) can produce content without the need for tech-savvy developers, the time to create your training will be shorter, the number of courses can increase, and the return on the investment for your authoring tool will be higher.

2. Does it give you the flexibility and control you need?

Your brand is important to you, so you’ll want a high degree of control over where your logo  appears and the color palettes and fonts that are used in your courses. A high level of control is good, but if you have several people developing courses, you won’t want them applying your standards in non-standard ways.

Modern authoring tools, such as Elucidat, address this by allowing you to create themes or templates that position and lock-in certain on-screen elements, including logos, background colors, and formatted text blocks, and to leave the course author free to focus on manipulating the dynamic elements, for example text content, images, and drag and drop elements.

3. Can you collaborate with team members inside the tool?

To ensure quality, your course authors need to collaborate quickly and accurately with stakeholders, reviewers, and testers. Consider using an authoring tool that has a streamlined online system to enable reviewers to make comments or recommendations right on the page they’re reviewing. This means no more crossed or missed e-mail recommendations and no more duplicate or conflicting change requests.

Apart from avoiding frustration, this efficiency results in higher-quality content produced in less time.

Related: Why online collaboration is the solution you’re your team’s efficiency problem

4. Can you create mobile-ready learning?

Content that can be written once and deployed to a desktop, tablet, and mobile phone is a huge plus. It increases your audience and gives it the flexibility to access your content in multiple ways.

This case study shows how Utility Warehouse was able to reach 46,000 learners by using Elucidat’s responsive write-once-publish-anywhere design feature that allows learners to access content on their tablet and mobile devices.

Related: Why mobile learning is important (4 reasons)

5. How long does it take to publish and maintain courses?

It’s inevitable that you’ll want to make changes to courses that you’ve published, either because the material changes or because you find an error that needs to be fixed.

When this happens, cloud-based authoring tools are usually more efficient and convenient than their desktop equivalents. This is because the source files for your courses and the authoring tool itself are held centrally and are accessible to all your authors, wherever they are.

So, for example, if a course requires an urgent fix, and the primary author is on the road, another author can quickly make changes, or the primary author can make the changes from his or her hotel room or home. All that’s needed is a web browser and Internet connection.

To further streamline the process, Elucidat has a rapid release feature that, with a button click, can save and publish course changes directly to your Learning Management System (LMS).

6. How easy is it to localize for overseas markets?

At some point, it may be necessary to translate your courses into different languages, for example to access foreign markets or to cater to a client request. It’ll pay you to use an authoring product that has a built-in translation workflow if this is a possibility for you.

A common standard to allow translation from one language to another is XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format). An XLIFF file is a structured file that contains all the text to be translated and corresponding spaces for a human translator to enter alternative language versions of that same text.

This video shows how Elucidat allows you to export an XLIFF file containing all a course’s text for translation with the click of a button and then how to automatically import the translated text.

7. Does it come with prebuilt themes, page types and interactions?

The best authoring tools shield you from the complexities of what they’re doing under the hood, yet they enable you to incorporate powerful, engaging interactivity into your courses. For example, an Elucidat theme can contain dozens of page types, such as drag and drop, hotspots, text and graphics, and multiple choice questions. Where appropriate, these page types give you a simple mechanism to customize them (e.g., to position hotspots or add an answer option to a multiple choice question page), but the high-tech programming that makes them function will be hidden.

These simple-to-use pre-built page types become the building blocks that you use to create your highly interactive learning masterpiece in the quickest possible time.

8. Does it integrate with an analytics platform?

Data about who your learners are and how they are accessing and using your courses is an important part of understanding your business. Without this, how do you know how effective your courses are? Good data could highlight a new potential market or indicate ways to better serve your current customers.

Some of this information may be available from your LMS, but it is more likely that more granular demographic data can be captured by using Google Analytics linked to the courseware.

This short video shows how to link a Google Analytics account to an Elucidat project.

Related: Stay on top of the latest elearning ideas, trends and technologies by subscribing to the Elucidat weekly newsletter.

In conclusion

Your authoring tool is one of the most important pieces of software that you’ll rely on, so it pays to do a lot of homework before you commit to it.

I have recently written a post comparing a few high-profile authoring tools. Most of these have generous free trials; take advantage of these to test them out and see if one is a good fit for your business.

Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold is the Chief Executive of Elucidat. He helps large companies and training providers speed up and simplify their elearning authoring.
Steve Penfold
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