Moodle usability – Global editing button overwhelms the user when turned on

Moodle UX_1


When the global editing button is in “ON” mode, every editing option for all sections are visible at the same time. In some instances there is more than one option visible in the same row for a user to choose from. The appearance of all these options at the same time also causes some of the interface layout to shift down to accommodate these editing options. This causes an interference effect and the user must constantly re-assess the space they are working in. The user is left feeling overwhelmed with all of the options on display. In addition, this mode does not provide an accurate representation of the completed edits, causing the user to constantly switch between “editing ON” and “PREVIEW” modes to be able to preview how the edits will finally appear.

Usability heuristic/s neglected:

Recognition rather than recall: Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

Aesthetic and minimalist design: Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

See 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design by Jakob Nielsen.


A solution to this problem could be to constrain the number of options displayed at the same time for a single item. Having all these options displayed at once, actually increases the choices a user is having to make and causes further cognitive overload. Next, eliminate the need to have editing turned on at all, by having settings cog icons (with drop-down menus) that appear at all times on hover, when the user is signed in as administrator (as pictured). A comforting stop-gap for the user might be to keep the “Turn editing ON” button, but make it default to “ON” with the button displaying the word “PREVIEW” to turn it off. This would provide a “the right tool when you need it” approach for the user and also allow the user to continue editing without getting distracted by the interface. (I believe this could end up saving the user hours).

A further solution to the back and forth feeling a user may experience when editing basic text features on this page, would be to allow the user to edit text directly from the main page eliminating the need for a separate editing page (see Additionally, changing the cursor to the move tool icon when placed over topic headings eliminates the need for this extra option to appear at all.

Usability assessment carried out on the standard “vanilla” version of Moodle. Download the full Moodle UX Evaluation – PDF – 3MB originally posted here. This suggestion will be added to the Moodle Issue Tracker if there are no major objections to this post. Feedback welcome!

Recommended reading – Universal Principles of Design.

Moodle UX Evaluation

Moodle UX Evaluation – PDF – 3MB

It has been about one year since my last blog post where, on my search to find out how a graphic designer could enhance online learning, I realised that the largest barrier was the usability and readability of the online learning management system (LMS), for students and for lecturers.

Unsure of my next move, I have plunged into the world of user experience (UX), reading articles, seeking advice from experts, being hyper-aware of websites I visit, and completing the Human Computer Interaction course on Coursera. I’m not sure that this experience has improved my quality of life necessarily, as I now find myself frustrated when sites break the most basic usability guidelines, however, this has all culminated in an overall usability or UX assessment of the Moodle LMS.

As I see it, Moodle is this fantastic system that has so much to offer and provides genuine solutions to complexities that I still struggle to comprehend. Massively talented developers have poured their time and effort into making this product incredibly powerful and scalable (a task unto itself). So I ask that we give these developers the respect and kudos they deserve. What I am setting out to do, is ask that we help them to improve the usability of this software, so that the user can fully appreciate the amazing tool they have at their fingertips.

I must highlight that one of the first things I did was to explore what other LMSs were on offer “off-the-shelf” and was quite underwhelmed by my findings. Some were more aesthetically pleasing than the outdated version of Moodle that I was using at the time, however, it didn’t matter how many trials I signed up for, or how many features they offered, none met up to my expectations of an “Apple-like” experience (my apologies to the Canvas LMS reps who may have thought I was in a position of more influence, yes, I am still avoiding your phone calls).

In short, I have done a usability assessment on Moodle because that is the software in use within my organisation. My reasons for doing so are (a) because of the students who have to interact with Moodle (b) because of the lecturers who have to battle with Moodle on a daily basis (c) because I have to use it, and (d) because UX is actually kind of fun! As a side note, I would be surprised if, in this start-up culture we are in, no one was developing a rival, so there is a high possibility that a new LMS could be created to overtake them all.

I’ve decided to put this information on this blog to increase it’s discoverability, but my aim is to log these suggestions on the site (an online update suggestion tracker). So if you agree with any of these suggestions or think they could be an improvement, the best and most likely way to affect change would be to support these suggestions on the Moodle Tracker site.

Anyway, let’s get to it! A humble graphic designers usability assessment of the vanilla (unaltered version) of Moodle, and some visual suggestions to improve it.

This will eventually be broken into separate blog posts for quick and direct access, but for the moment, the full UX evaluation in PDF format is at the top of this post.

Comments and feedback are super welcome. As stated, I have only been focused on this for one year and am not an expert by any means. Help and feedback are appreciated and necessary! Please comment on the relevant page. Thanks!