Why Users Struggle in Your edTech Product

Monica Sherwood bio picture Monica Sherwood

Users experience challenges in edTech products for all sorts of reasons. Everything from overly complex navigation patterns to visual noise can distract from your learning content and prevent users from getting the most out of your tool. 

Has your customer service team noticed a pile-up of user feedback on the same feature? Or are your sales dwindling unexpectedly? If so, it’s time to get to the bottom of things with user experience research.

By using tools from the UX research process, you’ll be able to pinpoint specific areas of frustration and develop better solutions. This could mean conducting a full UX audit or holding one more round of user testing to get to the bottom of your users’ product challenges.

Below, we break down UX research best practices for identifying the biggest product challenges for your edTech users. We also decode some of the most common design feedback we hear from teachers and students. If any of these comments mirror user feedback for your own product, you’ll be ready to move faster, identify the problem, and design solutions that delight your users.

How to Identify Product Challenges with User Experience Research

It can happen to any edTech brand. 

Your learning content is solid, your marketing team is doing well, but your users bail on activities early in their journey. Or teachers and parents have started to leave negative reviews identifying the same issue.

Where do you go from here? 

Turning to the UX research process is your best course of action. Here are the three UX best practices we use again and again to identify sticking points within edTech products.

  1. Conduct a UX audit

Conduct a UX audit of your existing product to illuminate areas with unintentional obstacles in the user’s journey. Most likely, there’s some challenge between your user and their intended goal. Your audit will help you determine what those challenges are.

Within your audit, a heuristic analysis can provide guidelines and criteria for evaluating usability. We recommend Jakob Nielsen’s principles for interaction design as a starting point. By applying heuristic analysis to your product, you’ll uncover the design pitfalls that lower its overall usability. 


  1. Identify specific pain points with user testing

Observing users as they perform tasks in real time will tell you a lot about their challenges within your existing product. 

Before you spring for a feature re-design, get to the bottom of the issue by conducting several rounds of user testing. What stumbling blocks do you notice? What kinds of feedback do your users provide? 


  1. Audit your competitors

Competitive audits provide industry-wide insight into common UX patterns. By understanding which UX patterns your users are familiar with, it will be easier to design intuitive interactions within your edTech product.

Not only will competitive audits help you avoid making the same mistakes as your competitors, but they also offer a fresh lens for evaluating user challenges within your own product.


4 Common edTech Design Challenges and How to Fix Them

Challenge #1: Targeting the Wrong Age Group

If your digital reading tool is designed for second graders, testing might reveal that the UX copy is easier for fourth and fifth graders to understand. Or it might be that your product’s UI doesn’t quite appeal to the young students who are your target user base. 

Whatever your specific challenge might be, user feedback points to a mismatch between existing content or design and the targeted age group of your users.

Typical user feedback: When testing adult users of your product, you might hear things like, “I like the learning content, but other products do a better job making content visually interesting for my students.” 

If you’re testing student users, you may hear specific design or content-related ideas, including, “I like when products have themes that change,” or, “I like when I can customize my avatar.”

Actions to take: Review the customer feedback you’ve already received. Based on feedback, conduct focus groups that target students in the right grade levels. Focus groups with real users at different developmental stages ensure that students are responding to design decisions in the way that you intend.

You might also consider running A/B tests on different visual solutions for your product. Which solution performs better? Can you offer different designs targeted to each grade band? What responses do students have to specific themes or characters? 

For an even more thorough approach, audit the visual interface, illustration, and theme decisions of your competitors and consult educational experts for additional insights into the developmental needs of specific age groups.

Challenge #2: Product Navigation Doesn’t Follow a Logical Sequence

While playing around with common UX patterns can result in interesting visual design choices, you may also unintentionally create confusion for your users. 

For example, if your log-in button is located at the bottom of a landing page, rather than on the right-hand side of your screen, young users might have a tough time accessing your product.

Typical kinds of user feedback: User feedback on navigation issues can be spectacularly blunt or straight-forward. You might hear users say something like, “I don’t know how I got here. Why did clicking on this link bring me to this page?”  

We’ve also heard teachers give feedback like, “I know my kids would be so frustrated by this,” or, “This doesn’t make any sense.” Time to go back to the drawing board!

Actions to take: Start with a user test and observe students or teachers trying to navigate within your product in real time. Once pandemic restrictions lift, you may even be able to conduct a field study by going into a classroom and observing kids using your product in their typical environment.

Collecting anecdotal information will also help you pinpoint where the navigation breaks down for student users. With more information, you’ll be able to better reconfigure your screens, or streamline the user flow for the most troublesome areas of the product. Don’t forget to test your new solutions!

Challenge #3: Lack of Visual Engagement

Even if your UX works like a charm, your user interface might be overly corporate or geared toward adult users. 

Students need to be visually engaged with compelling, age-appropriate designs. Once they’re having fun, it’s much easier to help them learn.

Typical kinds of user feedback: You may get positive feedback from teachers about visual design, even as they express hesitancy about what will engage their students. 

Comments like, “I like looking at this, but I don’t know that the kids are going to react well to it,” or, “I think this is geared more towards me,” are common.

Actions to take: If your product has both student- and teacher-facing UI, consider how you might further customize the student view. 

Which visual elements can be changed to appeal to student users? Where can you infuse the student experience with delight? How do you show a visual relationship between the student and teacher interfaces without making the teacher interface too kidlike?

Challenge #4: Too Much Visual Noise
Sometimes we go for visual engagement and delight and overwhelm our users. If there are too many animations, alerts, or multiple navigational choices for your users to make, they might quit rather than engage at all.

Typical kinds of user feedback: Be on the lookout for signs of frustration during usability tests. Student users might express concerns like, “I don’t know where to look.” Meanwhile, teachers might come right out and say, “I know my kids or my parents would be frustrated and not know what to do.”

 Actions to take: Conduct qualitative interviews and ask existing customers to identify the main task on the primary page of your site. Can they pinpoint the most important area of your app?

Based on the results of your interviews, re-organize the visual hierarchy of your page to emphasize the user’s primary need or task. Then, conduct additional user testing to verify whether you’ve hit on the right solution.

User research and testing is your best tool for identifying specific product challenges and designing an innovative solution. The faster you deploy UX audits or schedule a focus group, the sooner you’ll smooth out any rough edges in your UX. And the happier teachers, parents, and students will be to use and recommend your learning tool!

Are you trying to understand a mysterious dip in user engagement? Drop us a line and tell us how we can help!

Let’s build the future of digital products together.