An effective course navigation design should fulfil its intended function by conveying clear navigation whilst simultaneously engaging the student. Several factors such as consistency, colours, typography, imagery, simplicity, and functionality contribute to good course design. When designing a clear and simple navigation system, there are many key factors that will contribute to how it is perceived. A well-designed front-end of the course can help build trust and guide students to take action. Creating a great user experience involves making sure your front-end design is optimised for usability (form and aesthetics) and how easy is it to use (functionality).

Make the Main Actionable Targets Easy to Reach (Fitts’ Law)

Fitts’ law originates from the psychologist Paul Fitts’ work while examining the human motor system. This law states that the distance and size of a target element directly impact the amount of time it takes for a student to navigate to and interact with it. This means you’ll want to make your main actionable targets easy to reach.

Keep Users’ Choices to a Minimum (Hick’s Law)

If you’ve ever been so overwhelmed by the number of choices before you that you had trouble deciding between them, you’ll understand how too many options can be paralyzing for users. This is Hick’s law in a nutshell. The more choices available, and the more complex each of them is, the more time it’ll take for users to arrive at a decision. This principle effectively means you want to remove clutter and show your users only the most essential options they need.

Place Related Elements in Common Areas (Law of Common Region)

The law of common region, one of several laws from the school of Gestalt psychology, simply states that if elements on a page are grouped together closely, they are perceived as connected to one another.  You can accomplish this with borders, backgrounds, or spacing. 

This principle is all about composition and spacing, and you’ll want to use it wisely. On the main page of your course where the modules are displayed chronologically, the title, description, and image of each page/file should be visually grouped together.

Use Familiar Scenarios and Logic (Jakob’s Law)

Jakob’s law, coined by Jakob Nielsen, a co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, advocates the use of familiar scenarios and logic in user interface development. Your students will generally expect — and prefer — that your course navigation works the same way as others they’re already familiar with. 

Use Simple Structures and Avoid Complex Shapes (Law of Prägnanz)

The law of Prägnanz recommends using simple structures and avoiding complex shapes. Your students will interpret your course structure using the least cognitive effort possible. Complex images will be perceived in their simplest forms. Reducing cognitive overload should be an important part of your design goals. You can apply this principle by grouping and aligning elements into relevant blocks, columns, and sections, instead of throwing them all over the course.