What We Learned Developing LMS Driving School Websites

Friday, September 28th, 2018
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It may surprise some to learn that our agency has developed a unique expertise in the area of learning management systems (LMS). We have actually developed online courses for a variety of industries, but are particularly experts in driving school websites. These projects are far from a standard brochure web design. Here are some of the interesting things we have picked up along the way in these complex web development feats.

online driving websites

Online registration design matters in driving school websites.

Students today are busy and trying to get things done quickly. They have a short attention span, just like most people using the web. They also have a lot more choices of who to sign up with. Making your registration process easy and efficient is a priority.

With regulated online course websites like online driving schools, there is a lot of information required of the customer. For young drivers, we have to gather information about the student, the parent and the school. For adult drivers, we have to verify information about drivers licenses and traffic tickets. By really thinking about the design of the registration pages, you can make this process less daunting for the user.

Sometimes, a simple 1-page registration form is ideal. But sometimes creating a wizard-style experience with the process broken into steps really makes an impact. We performed a web development phase revision on an online driving school website that changed it’s previous 2 step registration to a series of 5 easy steps with minimal information. Each step in the process gathered just the right info to get the student’s profile started, and engage them to commit and pay at the right time. Reordering the tasks the student was asked to do made a positive difference in the site’s conversion.

Finally, the web application’s registration process should be mobile-friendly. There are more mobile users than ever. And busy people take their classes on phones, tablets and all sorts of devices.

taking a class on mobile

Clear instructions go a long way for online courses.

The power of words is real. Including well-written instructions helps students to prepare for class, register properly, navigate the online course with ease, and resolve issues. By simply adding better instructions to a page, customer support calls are minimized.

Remember, online students are busy and impatient. They just want to get their course certificate and drive off into the sunset. This means they might miss something important about a required field, or not immediately understand how to complete a step. By including bold clearly worded labels on form fields, you help the user fill it out efficiently. By adding tool tips (little interactive help descriptions), the user can self-guide through a process and avoid calling the school to ask questions.

Carefully thought out website text can even help avoid complaints. Driving schools and other state regulated education programs have special requirements that introduce extra steps a person has to go through in order to take a course. They have to gather information from documents like car registrations and traffic tickets. For some, this is frustrating and they assume the site is making their experience difficult. But by explaining that the task is a requirement of the state, the person understands that all similar courses have this requirement and it’s just a part of the process for all students.

Error messages are opportunities for better wording, too. A short, cryptic error message can confuse and infuriate a user. Some simple rephrasing of an error alert can come across as much more clear and even friendly. Students are going to make mistakes. Typos happen. Gently direct the user to the mistake and help them quickly correct it.

online course customer service

Putting thought into the design of your admin dashboard pays off.

Online learning management systems contain a lot of data. The information about the student, their course progress and scores must be accurate. In our experiences doing web development for online driving school websites, we realized there are frequent needs for customer service that rely on confirming the data.

If a student doesn’t understand why they are locked out of the class, the customer service admin can review the student’s activity and explain the errors. For a student having problems accessing the course, a detailed admin log can show what kind of device or browser the student was using. When a student complains that the completion certificate didn’t arrive, the admin can view detailed logs to verify the student’s passing exam score.

I think this is an area where a lot of site owners are missing out. Investing in effort on your admin panel design can result in awesome benefits for admins, customer service staff, and students. Rather than requiring your customer to jump through hoops to troubleshoot something, your admin tools can provide control to resolve something quickly.

In online driving school websites it’s very helpful to have an admin tool that can view a student’s certificate and reissue it. The admin portals we have designed also include registration dates and dates when the students completed each leg of the online driving course. This information really helps administrators find the customer quickly and provide great support. It also helps to comply with state requirements if the data needs to be verified.

It’s essential to prepare for third party web technology integrations.

Complex systems that are related to skills like driving a vehicle often require integration with other technologies. In state-approved defensive driving, there is a need to verify that a student is licensed to drive. This means that the site must integrate with an approved database to verify the person’s drivers license status.

There are also special security requirements to keep students accountable. This may include personal validation questions that periodically interrupt the course to verify the student’s identity. The purpose of this state requirement is to ensure the user logged in is the actual student. To be able to perform these verifications, integrations with third parties is required. An important part of the web development planning process is gathering detailed information about those providers and their API requirements. It requires collaboration and teamwork-style testing. When errors occur, the web development team must be able to identify if the issue is caused by the website code or on the integration side.

odp driving school website demo

Working with complex website requirements means triple the testing time.

Any web development project requires testing and QA. But super complicated web applications, especially for busy driving school websites, require substantially more. It’s necessary to test every aspect of the site, from the registration steps and payment process, to course access, to course progression, quizzes and milestones, final exams, scoring, and certificates.

With driving school websites, the courses are usually progressive and have several chapter quizzes and final tests. Getting through the course to make sure each step works properly takes time. There are also requirements for minimum time spent on breaks or logged out, or a waiting period before you can receive a certain certification. What you might have expected to be an hour of testing could become two days and a lot of waiting.

What we have also learned is that a lot more information is gathered after real students start using the system. No matter how much grueling testing you do before launch, you can’t read the minds of real customers. Once dozens of real students start to register and take the online course, more feedback rolls in.

This is when great feedback about instructions, ordering, course materials and the ease of testing and getting certificates happens. Smart school owners gather this information and take note of each detail so they can plan further improvements. We frequently work collaboratively with online schools to continue improvement phases and new feature releases. Each new feature release brings added benefit for students and admins.

J Sinex

Managing Director, WEBii

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