Designed for Desktops, Delivered on Smartphones – 4 key pitfalls

docebo_20140821I am indebted to Dario De Angelis of Docebo whose article yesterday took me back to my very early days of courseware design.

My first online design project involved delivery using text and the crudest of graphics on a matrix of 24 rows each having 40 characters, oh and some primary colours! This was the Prestel Teletext system of the late 70s.

Joy of joy, I then moved to the unbelievable luxury of a 512 x 512 screen albeit in monochrome – the Control Data PLATO system.

All before the birth of the PC.

As an instructional designer, my early experiences taught me a lot about working with new limitations – moving from OHP viewfoils to 40 x 24 characters for online TV delivery was a challenge – as was losing colour.

We face much the same challenges now with the arrival of tablets and smartphones as delivery mechanisms.

Forget the instructional designer for a moment. It seems there are two ways that system suppliers are tackling the issue. On the one hand there are those who have moved to a responsive display where what you see automatically changes layout and resolution to suit different devices. Others seem to produce two completely different versions so that learners can utilise the full scope of the features on each particular device. No doubt, there are hybrids of these as well.

I have to admit to being a relative novice in producing courses for today’s smartphones, still spending a lot of my time with large companies using operating systems and browsers that are on the borders of becoming obsolete. However, in moving ourselves forward, I have to say that I favour the responsive systems that mean, as long as we consider the physical attributes of all the delivery devices up front, there is only one course to design and develop – not different ones for different devices.

So, coming back to Darlo’s article. He provides good advice on the four key aspects of mobile devices which it is vital to consider in courseware design:

  • Screen Resolution
  • Interactions
  • Connectivity
  • Environment

Click here to go to Darlo’s article on

2 thoughts on “Designed for Desktops, Delivered on Smartphones – 4 key pitfalls”

  1. I have just listened to Mike Alcock’s presentation of gomo 2.1. So, as an addendum to the post, it is clear from listening to what gomo has to offer, there are many more options in authoring tools which are built for delivery of learning resources on all platforms.

    For example, on individual pages, it is possible to define which elements are presented dependent on the type of device being used. This means that you can take advantage of an extensive video presentation when delivering on desktop, but replace it automatically with a set of still images when the device is a smartphone, thus not requiring massive mobile phone download.

  2. I forgot to mention, you can give gomo a try with a 21 day free trial. You do not even have to give them your credit card details, which is nice. If I can find the time, I will certainly take them up on this. If you do, why not do what I do and, if I decide that I do not have a need for their offering at the moment, if I want to mention it to others, or if I feel it is something I want to shout about, I let them know!

    You can sign up for the trial at

    PS – no, I am not an affiliate, I have no connection with them other that we both exist on the same island of the European mainland and that we are at opposite ends of the thameslink train line! I have followed the guys down at Old Steine for what seems like decades!

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