Quality is a Subtle Distinction


In response to this insightful article from Clark Quinn.

Quality design is hard to distinguish from well-produced but under-designed content.

For myself, and for most of the people who might read Clark’s post, it is easy to distinguish – we usually notice it on the title slide, or right after. But, how do we educate and convince clients, managers and dedicated stubborn instructional designers, among others, that content is as important as design, and vice-versa?

If you don\’t care that it ‘sticks\’ and leads to meaningful behavior change in the workplace, you shouldn\’t even start. If you do care, then you have to do more.

What if we’re forced to start, even when nobody cares?

For many people, myself included, this argument is often brought up when we discuss compliance training. I hear this a lot (and I’ve even caught myself saying it): “If it’s just a tick mark you’re after, why bother with design or quality content?”

The answer, I believe, lies in those of us who truly care about the users. We can make a difference. Here are some ideas:

  • Peer reviews. Do them. Internally, externally, however you have to – get another pair of eyes (or more, ideally) on the product. If your teammates don’t ask you to review, remind them that you’re available and want to do it. Make it happen.
  • Basic usability and accessibility. Here are some free tutorials. Educate those around you.
  • Conferences: learn from the leaders in the industry. And, I’m not talking about keynotes. I’m talking about after-hours dinner and/or beers with other attendees to find out how they’re doing it.
  • Ask questions. Twitter. Lrnchat. Period.
  • Get help. The gurus out there are more than willing to lend a helping hand. It’s in our nature. It’s what we do. Dare I say, it’s what we live for. Find them. More often than not, you’ll get way more information than you wanted, for free.

Remember this, though: good design is not good design to everyone, so there is no singular solution, template or concept that can just be “applied” to achieve success. This is where the old system has to be broken down. The idea that one product, method or model is always the answer, is wrong. We need to consider multiple, and alternative, methods of delivering information, training, etc. to accommodate as much of our audience as possible.

Now that this quick response has turned into a long post, talk amongst yourselves, then respond, argue, discuss.

3 thoughts on “Quality is a Subtle Distinction

  1. I like it when a post generates such a thoughtful response. Yes, those of us who’ve taken the time to know what good design is can pretty much pick it out at 100 yards; that’s the benefit of being a reflective practitioner with years of experience (not just the 10000 hours of *doing* it, but simultaneously consciously looking to improve). You’ve got to get there, and then start helping others understand at least the top-level to keep them from settling for less.

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