Skillsoft Blog

Designing Skillport® 8: notes from the trenches

By Stephanie Pyle

At the 2012 Skillsoft Perspectives conference, we unveiled an advanced look at our upcoming Skillport® 8 release. Skillport 8 brings together all formats of learning content, integrating books, courses and videos in the same library, giving the user a single, seamless experience. To support users on-the-go, Skillport 8 is cross-platform and cross-device – it works as well on a tablet as on a desktop. Many customers asked how we arrived at such a dramatic (and effective) design. There’s a story there and we’re pleased to share it.

Early on, the team went back to basics to ask ourselves just what is Skillport’s “role” in the customer relationship?  Is Skillport why they do business with Skillsoft in the first place? After much discussion, we arrived at the collective realization that though Skillport was our own passion (because we work on it every day), it is really more of a supporting player to most of our customers. For them, Skillsoft content is the driving force behind the business relationship, with Skillsoft’s service and experience sealing the deal.

Reflecting further, we realized that while the various features and functions of an LMS are important, it is the optimization of the user experience with the content that’s key. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Skillsoft content or an organization’s proprietary content.  By focusing on the content, we’ve designed Skillport to be a richer total user experience. The visual design features a more streamlined look to allow the content to be the focus. The navigation and actions are readily apparent and intuitive because of the use of established standards and consistency within the application. Our team took the latest web design principles into consideration for Skillport 8. With mobile on the brain, we made sure it would be suitable on a tablet by optimizing it for a gestural interface.

Our team’s second epiphany was to again go back to basics and ask ourselves just exactly what do the vast majority of Skillport users wish to do. It’s simple − 90% of the time they arrive on a mission to:

  •  Find appropriate learning, and
  • “Transact” that learning (take it, enroll in it, or flag it for later).

Digging a little deeper, we defined two different models for how people like to “find” information. Using the example of shopping in a department store, we identified two basic seeker-type personas.

  • The “Shopper” loves to walk the aisles, examine the merchandise to see what catches their eye and make purchase selections that way.
  • The “Hunter” enters the store, knows just what he/she wants, uses the store directory to make a bee-line to the desired item and make the purchase; in-and-out.

Then we asked ourselves which popular websites support both the Shopper and the Hunter today? To gain insight, we identified consumer websites that people use every day. By making Skillport resemble these popular consumer websites, this means much less of a learning curve for our users.

For the “Shopper,” consumer websites have intuitive category/department browse capabilities with supporting filters (like color, price, size, etc.) to narrow-down selections as desired. In Skillport 8, we revamped the content catalog to combine all assets (including Books24x7 titles) into one complete subject matter library. Plus we provide customers the ability to build alternate views − organizing content as they wish, such as by competency.

For the “Hunter” these sites have fast and effective search functions. Skillport 8 has an improved version of our already market-leading “Search&Learn™” now with added global and content -specific filtering tools to help users find desired titles − FAST!

In popular consumer websites, users are presented with the site’s recommendations in featured-item display carousels, spotlight promo areas and the like. Similarly in Skillport 8, we’ll be giving customers the ability to feature the content they wish to promote to their learners, placing those titles prominently on the What’s New page. These sites all have associated graphics or thumbnails attached to items for visual interest. In Skillport, we’ve displayed graphics with each piece of content (like the book cover images we’ve always had in Books24x7) to provide visual appeal as learners move through the site.

Skillport 8 has been a long haul, but we’re proud that we rose to the challenge. We’ve raised the bar in transforming the LMS from a drab, text-heavy online catalog application to a discover-and-transact experience much more like what learners encounter elsewhere in their daily internet travels. There is a tighter integration of community features with the content throughout the software. Community no longer feels like an add-on – it’s part of the whole experience.

The market will tell us if we hit the mark, but we believe we have a real LMS game-changer here.

To learn more about Skillport 8, watch this short video.

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