Review: DesignJot

DesignJot from Allen Communications is marketed as the first iPad app designed to help build better training. It is a project template based on their ANSWER model of analyzing training needs and designing training solutions, and it’s $4.99 on iTunes.

How It Works

The concept is pretty simple. After you’ve created and named a new project, the app takes you to the Analysis section: a series of questions divided up into Audience, Needs, Strengths, Weaknesses, Expertise, and Results (ANSWER). You have the ability to add questions in any category. Each category has a Tips button leading to performance support (through text and video) that explains what should be included in that category.

The Analysis Screen

The first screen you see in the Design section is a flowchart starting with the business goal and behaviors you recorded in the Analysis section. You can add to them here, as well as add instructional strategies that contribute to each behavior. Instructional strategies include Branching Scenario, Single-Path Scenario, Procedures, Game (Classroom), Game (WBT), Role Play, or Custom. Each instructional strategy can be opened to record objectives, activities, and content — including a layout sketch from the built-in sketch program. There’s also a freeform notes area.

The Flowchart View

What I Liked

  • The included sample project and performance support do a decent job of showing how the application should be used, so the learning curve should be quite minimal.
  • Any analysis can be customized by adding questions that may be relevant or deleting questions that aren’t.
  • The sketch tool can help with early conversations with stakeholders about interface design.
  • Most of all, I like that it’s an app. The mere fact that it’s self-contained sets it apart from all of the versionitis-ridden Word docs you might ordinarily use to analyze a project. (Not you, of course. The general “you”. You are always perfectly organized.)

What I Didn’t Like

  • The app doesn’t have enough customization capability for my taste. While you can add and delete questions, your changes won’t be carried over to the next project, and you can’t reorganize the categories of questions. I don’t have anything against templates per se — we use them in our client work and give them away on our website — but my experience has been that templates change over time, which this app does not allow for.
  • Similarly, if you happen to use a model other than ANSWER, well… this app doesn’t allow for that.
  • While you can export the project as a PDF and email it to your other team members and stakeholders, the PDF output is highly branded by Allen Communications. This makes that feature pretty much unusable by e-learning vendors such as us. But truthfully, the branding probably would have kept me from using the PDF when I was internal ID; it would have looked way too much like my work had actually been done by a vendor.

The Last Word

My feeling is that this app would be more helpful to beginners than experts. But even for us experts, anything that helps us do more analysis is a good thing. And if this app has anything whatsoever that will help you with your job, it’s a bargain at $4.99.

As beginning designers need less scaffolding, though, my sense is that their own templates, created or customized using regular word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and mindmapping tools, will serve them better. Those instruments won’t have the app-like experience, but with the ability to customize them, designers can make sure they meet the needs of their organizations and reflect their continued learning about instructional design.

Judy Unrein

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