Every website has a certain purpose, be it to inform people, create a community, or sell stuff. At the same time, people who visit a website have a certain goal. This sounds pretty straightforward, right? Now consider the diversity of people that come to your site and you will see that things are a little more complex. In order to reach your own goals and at the same time help your visitors reach theirs, you need to carefully think through how you present the content on your website.
I found this very nice quote by Forgus that sais: “Perception is an active process of locating and extracting information from the environment and learning is the process of acquiring information through experience and storing information. Thinking is the manipulation of information to solve problems. The easier it is to extract information (perceive) the easier our thinking process becomes.”
Basically this quote tells us that we are responsible of whether or not people care for the information we offer on our site and at the same time if they can handle it. We have the obligation to make information as easy to access and as intuitive to perceive as possible. The way we present our content defines if and how many people can solve their goals.
In this article I’d like to guide you through different learning styles and explain how thinking like a teacher can help you create a better user experience.
Individual Learning Styles
“Learning is acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information.”
Learning styles describe different ways of learning. Individuals can better interact with, take in, and process information that is presented to them in a certain way. The idea of individualized learning styles came up in the 1970s and has become very popular in education. Teachers, who recognize the idea try to present information to their students in different ways in order to allow every individual to get the most out of the lecture.
The most common model to describe individual learning is the Fleming VARK model, which differentiates between three different learning styles: visual learning, auditory learning, and kinesthetic learning.
Visual learners learn best by looking at information that is presented in pictures, charts, or diagrams. They have strong visualization skills and both understand and remember information in visuals. Written information is often transferred into a “movie” and remembered as such. For visual learners, visual-spatial aspects, such as size, shape, or texture are very salient. Aesthetics, such as the visual design of a website are important to this group of learners.
Auditory learners learn best by listening to information. They are good at remembering conversations and have strong language skills. Auditory learners are in general communicative and have no problems to express their ideas. They like to ask questions and filter information from individual answers. Also this group likes music and easily recognizes tones or rhythms.
Kinesthetic learners learn best through experience. They are often very active in nature and learn through movement and engagement. Kinesthetic learners can best understand and remember things they have actively experienced, for example through the free trial version of a product. They are good with their hands and well coordinated.
While there are three defined learning styles, people usually don’t stick with only one. Most of us tend towards one of these learning styles, but at the same time we can also identify ourselves with aspects of the other two. For example, I’m an auditory learner with some visual learning traits. I remember things best if I either hear them in a lecture, or if I read them outloud to myself. At the same time I like to sketch outlines and charts to understand and memorize complex content.
Think like a teacher
While individual learning styles are mostly considered for educational reasons, with some creativity we can also apply them to our website. By doing so we can greatly improve the user experience on an individual level.
At this point I want you to imagine yourself as a teacher and your site visitors as your students. Your goal is it to create a perfect learning experience for every individual student in your class.
In the following I’ll give you seven reasons why thinking like a teacher will help you to better understand your visitors.
1. Get noticed
As a teacher, you need a certain authority to make sure your students pay attention. On the Web this is exactly the same. Make sure to stand out from the crowd and to have authority in your niche. This is very important in order to get people’s attention and attract them to your website.
2. Be trustworthy
You need to be trustworthy. If students find out you are not telling the truth, or if you are not authentic, they will not respect you. As a consequence, they will not believe what you say, which makes you pretty useless as a teacher, right?
Probably the biggest challenge of any teacher is to motivate his students. For your website it’s the same thing. People will not visit if you don’t give them a reason to do so. Give them a goal, promise something free, or offer them some kind of incentive.
The most basic part of teaching is to bring across some useful information to your students. It’s all up to you how you do that. Use an old fashion presentation, engage your students in discussions, show them movies, or let them perform a roleplay, whatever. Just make sure your teaching style matches their age and interests.
5. Eliminate distraction
Students are easily distracted, be it by other students, the nice weather outside, or an incoming chat message on their smartphone. A good teacher either avoids these distractions from the start or manages to draw his students’ attention back to the class. Make sure your website visitors keep their goal in mind at all times while browsing your site.
6. Be likable
A very strict or experienced teacher does not necessarily make it to the top of the most favorite list. Being liked requires a lot more. A teacher who is really appreciated by his students connects with them, maybe makes them laugh, or somehow involves them in his lessons.
7. Be worth remembering
Last but not least, exceptional teachers will be remembered. They offer their students some experiences that truly strike them as remarkable. These teachers will impact their students’ lives forever and their messages will not be forgotten.
Teaching is not that different from what you do on your website. At the same time, learning is not that different from what your visitors do. So it makes perfect sense to take some of the aspects of individual learning styles and apply them to the content presentation of our website.
Offer your website visitors different ways to extract the information on your site that they need. For example, you should combine text and visuals, offer videos, or a support number for personal assistance. Engage your visitors in actions and offer them an experience they will remember.