Potential pitfalls when developing content

We’ve been in the eLearning industry for nearly 30 years. In that time, we’ve seen a lot of people make the same mistakes, time and time again. So, in this blog I’m going to share with you some of the potential pitfalls you may encounter when developing content.


1. Not clarifying understanding.

“Give me the content and I’ll get cracking. Yep, got it. Next, next and next?” This is the wrong approach.

Often, I have witnessed content designers not testing their understanding as to what the SME is explaining. Not testing your understanding potentially, and usually, causes development problems later in the project.  What happens when it comes to storyboard sign off and the customer comments “that’s not really how it works?” No matter how clearly you think you understand the SMEs requirements, make sure they know you know. If you don’t know, ask. If you think you know, check.


2. Overlooking the company perspective.

“Here’s one we made earlier… we have some clever designers, they’ll sort it out.” Again, wrong approach!

Nothing smacks of a bad job as much as overlooking the company business and branding. When meeting with the stakeholders make sure you understand their branding requirements and they understand how you are going to address them. Then document it. An ideal method of achieving this would be to have a sign off at a course outline or wireframe stage, before any content development is started.


3. Not documenting agreed treatments.

“Got it. Leave it with me, I have done it many times before?” You guessed it… also wrong.

As before, clarify everyone’s understanding and document it. People will and can have different expectations from the same conversation. Make notes of discussed treatments in your SME or stakeholder meetings and write them up as soon as you can. Else, you will forget…won’t you! The process of documenting what you know to have understood with the SME is a large part of understanding what they know, and builds confidence with them.


4. Leaving the standards to last.

“Consistency is not for everyone? Is it? Yes, non, vielleicht.” Wrong.

Have you heard the one about the webpage with flashing text, every font of any colour that spins and fades around the screen? When I find a website or distance learning material with flashing text it is not often I hang around. Given a choice, when developing content, some developers will use every font and animation option in the book, like the proverbial sweetshop. Stick to one or two fonts, preferably the same colour. And don’t flash text, please.


5. Not thinking about navigation.

“There is no need for navigation help, it’s obvious where to click, tick, type and rollover.” You know what they say about assuming… so it’s no shock that this is also a wrong assumption to make.

Again, if I find a website that is not obvious to navigate then I usually leave and find one that is. It’s the same with digital learning material. If it’s hard to use, it’s sure not going to be easy to learn from!  However, caution as navigation can be overdone. If the navigation is new, tell them in detail, if they know, remind them in short and after a while don’t bother them with it; unless they seem to need help.


6. Ignoring the glossary.

“Sure everyone knows the jargon… don’t worry about explaining TLAs or acronyms, everyone knows them.” And of course… this is our final wrong assumption.

A key challenge in any piece of distance learning is to not raise any unanswered questions. Keep this in mind when developing content. Unknown TLAs or jargon can be the quickest way to lose the learners interest; after bad navigation, inconsistency and flashing text (see above). Do you know what ‘TLA’ stands for, did you look it up or even bother? The answer is: Three Letter Acronym.


So, there you have it. My top six pitfalls I’ve seen people fall into, time and time again, throughout my years in digital learning. While you’re here, why not check out our blog about the most common design mistakes you may be making in your digital learning modules.