Designing a learning experience that created results and happy learners

What led me to design my own learning experience

For the last 8 years I’ve been designing digital experiences for small businesses.

A lot of my best work is done with high-touch collaborative projects. Many of my clients have been course creators and I’ve loved working with them. I also have an entrepreneurial spirit, and for a while had wanted to create my own a course based product.
I knew I wanted to help the new small business owner that needed a website. I saw a need, frustration and a problem that I could solve (hopefully!).
Having worked through this with my clients I knew this was going to be a lot of work. But, in the past learned the most by experimenting and exploring new strategies. I knew if anything I’d walk away from this with new skills and insights that I could share with my clients.
And, so my journey began, to create Sweet + Simple Sites.
Sweet and Simple Website Home Banner

What I wanted and what my learner needed

I had a vision of what I wanted this course to be. My initial research was done and I thought I knew what my learners would need.

I had mapped out a 6 page WordPress website that would take them a week to build. This was a nice idea, but it’s not what they actually needed.

You see I had done research on the problem and how to solve it, not the learner (the most important element of all). And those are two very different things. Through in-depth work getting to know to my learner, the course ended up looking much different then my vision.

Becuase I knew what my learner needed I was able to build a successful learning experience. What started out as a bigger course with a lot technical know how turned into a smaller simple step by step one. And the learners went from intimidated and overwhelmed to confident, proud and excited!

The proof is in the praise! 👏

sweet and simple testimonial

Here a few key things I did to create happy learners that you can do to!

1. Run an MVP of your course

Dive in and get a little messy with an MVP. Designing a course is a ton of work and if you’re anything like me you want to spend your time and money wisely. Open your outlined course up to handful of learners and get feedback right away. With an MVP you can be more hands on and you can adjust the experience to their needs as you go.

Getting immediate feedback from my learners and improving my course right then and there was a huge part of the success of my course. This was the biggest take away I had when I took Run Your Learning with my friend and mentor Marie Poulin.

2. Ask your learner meaningful questions.

  • How much time do they have?
  • How do they learn best?
  • What are their challenges?
  • How are they feeling right now?
  • What have their other struggles been in other learning experiences.
  • What would make them feel successful?

Since we’re not our learner, we don’t know these important answers unless we ask. These answers will help you make thoughtful design decisions and solutions.

3. Create bite sized information

Whether your content delivery is video, slides, audio or text make it short. It’s never easy to start off with the “get to the point” version. This was a challenge for me and I’ve seen happen in with my clients. Talk with your learners and get feedback until you’ve hit a sweet spot of providing solid information without overwhelm or tune out.

The example below is of a lesson in my course. I found that a video any longer then 5-7 min would be to long for my user. And that they also did well with scannable bullet points.


4. Give them actionable exercises

“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” – Confucius 

It’s a defeating feeling when you don’t understand the thing you spent time and money on. Give your learner a bit of instant gratification and confidence. By creating actionable exercises your learners can see results fast and they’ll have a better understanding of what they’re learning.

5. Share all the resources gold

Even if you’re an expert you’ll still Google how-tos, topics, tools and trends about the thing you know. But the trick is you know what to Google and how to use the best resources. That’s something that’s taken years to build up and for a novice it’s not something that they have.

With my learners I shared (what I thought was) a simple chrome extension that pulls a color off any webpage. Something so small to me rocked my learners world and they were so excited about using it. When you know something well it’s hard to see how helpful the little things are. But, it’s important to take a step back and share even the smallest resources that can improve your learners outcome.

6.Set your learner up for success

Let your learner know how they can make the most out of what you are teaching them. The beginning of something new is always exciting so use that initial energy to get them on the right track.

If feeling overwhelmed is normal, tell them. If they don’t need to spend more than 20 min on an exercise, tell them. If they need certain tools before they start, tell them.

Letting someone know what to expect can change an entire experience for them. This is something I also practice with my clients and it improves communication 10 fold. 

7. Create an approachable space to learn in

Treat your digital learning space as you would a real world class room. Set the stage for your learners to learn in a clean, clutter free area. Impress them and help them by being thoughtful of the space you create and content you’re sharing.

Below is an example of my learning space. The visuals are minimal but cohesive, there’s a lot of white space and the learner knows how to find what they need.

8. Go the extra mile

Think about a time in your learning experience where you could delight your learner.

  • Could a digital coffee card help them through their prep work?
  • Would motivational notepad help them take notes?
  • Or a cool branded shirt to wear once the complete it?
  • Maybe even a handwritten note with some encouragement?

10. Check in, ask more questions and iterate!

Not everyone speaks up when they are struggling to learn a new thing. In fact there can be a lot shame and frustration around “not getting something”. I know from personal experience but also with observing other learners. This doesn’t mean you have become tied to your email all day checking up on everyone. Providing an amazing expiernce doesn’t require you to be 100% accessible. But, it does require being thoughtful.

You can create efficient and sincere automated checkins with your learner. And ask questions that help you help them and future learners like:

  • How are they feeling?
  • Did they find a certain part of their experience overwhelming or hard?
  • Is it taking the amount of time they were expecting?

You can also open up time to support them and work through some of their struggles one on one. This time no only helps them but, it can also help you understand needs more intimately.

Take what they are telling you to heart and adjust the experience to their feedback.

The end.....of the beginning

You can’t lose when you create a thoughtful experience. Having a successful outcome for you learner is an achievement for them and good business for you. 

Everything circles back to understanding what your learner needs and how they feel. If you stick to this method you’ll see that with each learner you’re product and experience will improve time and time again.

Below is few website results from my former: frustrated, lost and  self proclaimed “non-techy” learners!

Sweet and Simple Example Of Beautiful Service Base Business Site
Sweet and Simple Example Of Beautiful Yoga Site

**Note Becuase some have asked about signing up for this course! **  I’m currently making changes to my freelance business this product in unavailable at the moment and in transition to business that will take over the operations. 

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Hi! I'm Kayla Rose Fields, Sr. Digital Experience Designer, Digital Marketer & Front-end WordPress Developer.

If you’re a big hearted brand with something new the works or a growing business. I can help you look your best online and take you business to the next level.