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Design Tips For More Interactive Employee Onboarding

This was originally posted on eLearning Industry

4 Lessons From User Experience Design

While User Experience (UX) design for employee onboarding has lagged a bit behind best practices for web design, innovative learning designers have picked up on a few tricks. To be effective, the learning experience needs to excite and engage employees. Much of that can be accomplished through careful training content strategies, but UX design is just as important. So, let’s discuss a few key UX strategies.


Familiar course design reduces the learning curve by lowering the cognitive load.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your corporate training design. In fact, it’s better to build a learning experience that feels familiar to your learners. Jakob’s Law [1], coined by user advocate Jakob Nielson, says “Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.” Essentially, you want to use layouts and functions that your learners see in their typical apps and platforms. Familiar course design reduces the learning curve by lowering the cognitive load [2].

To create a familiar design, use patterns and layouts similar to popular websites or applications. For example, one custom AllenComm course was made to resemble the navigation features of Netflix and other similar streaming video services. You can also align your courses with company websites that users will already know.


Careful use of whitespace, color, and iconography can help make your onboarding course visually appealing, and the appearance of your course can also improve your learners’ comprehension and retention. For instance, when used correctly, whitespace can increase comprehension by up to 20% [3]. Whitespace helps separate and define units of information, allowing your learners to better focus on key information. Consider your margins, as well as the spacing between text (i.e., leading and kerning).

Color and iconography can have similar effects on comprehension. Assigning certain colors in the design to a specific use or function can help your learners understand navigation and content more intuitively [4]. As for icons, they should be consistent, scalable, and easy to understand. According to UX Planet, if you can’t think of an icon in 5 seconds, it’s probably not effective to use that icon [5]. If that’s the case, then your learners will struggle to navigate the learning experience.


A top tier user experience strategy is critical for modern learners.

Human brains are better at processing and retaining “chunked” information—information that is organized into small, meaningful pieces. So, keep your content divided into a manageable number of subjects or objectives. Typically, 3 to 5 is a good range. Then, organize subsets of those objectives, keeping your structure logical, straightforward, and clear. You want to make sure your learners understand how each subset relates to its objective by using both icon-based and language-based transitions.

The medium for training content is also worth considering. Online reading is 25% slower than reading in print and 79% of online readers scan instead of reading word-for-word. So your learners are more likely to read and retain your content if it’s concise. Examples of easily scannable text include:

  • Brief sentences and paragraphs
  • Bolded keywords
  • Bullet points and lists
  • Clear, understandable language


When you’re designing employee onboarding training, tactics like gamification can make your course engaging and fun. Gamification isn’t new; it’s been a trend in corporate training for several years. But, a survey by The Brandon Hall Group found that nearly 50% of companies were using very few games in their corporate training [6]. But why is that the case? We already know gamification can increase your learners’ engagement and help them retain information.


Generally, learners will lose interest in a learning experience if the content is too difficult. This is no different for methods like gamification. You have to strike up the right balance of motivational factors and challenges. So, make the rules and mechanics of the game challenging but achievable. People have an intrinsic motivation to reach goals, which will positively reinforce training consumption as your learners rack up achievements.

It’s also important to set clear goals and expectations for your learning activities. If the goal seems too large, then it will lead to decreased motivation. Reasonable goals are essential to keeping the challenges of the game at the right difficulty level to maintain your learners’ interest.


The effect of rewards is pretty simple. Your learners will more easily maintain engagement with training content if you can increase their motivation. The easiest rewards tactic to implement is a point-based system. For example, a learner may receive some variable number of points for course completion, scores, or engagement. That being said, don’t give out easy points for low impact tasks. They become arbitrary and lose meaning. You can also add a social element by creating teams to compete against one another. A light competition offers some intrinsic motivation, but extrinsic motivation—like recognition or praise— can also help your learners stay invested in the learning experience. Feedback is another useful motivating factor. Learners want to know how they’re progressing and how well they’re performing on a task. Try providing feedback through progress bars, levels, and encouraging messages.


Employee onboarding is essential, and though training content strategy is important, a top tier user experience strategy is critical for modern learners. With a familiar, intuitive layout, well-organized and readable content, and effective gamification strategy, you can make sure your training has a greater impact. Remember to make use of best practices in instructional design, as well as graphic design, as you develop your next best training initiative.

For more on employee onboarding best practices, download the eBook Developing An Effective Employee Onboarding Process In The Modern Workplace.


[1] Jakob’s Law

[2] Using the power of familiarity in design

[3] The Power Of Whitespace

[4] The Psychology Of Color And Instructional Design

[5] Checklist for Using Icons In UI

[6] Learner Experience 2019