things often work themselves out

Faced with a minor design challenge, this dude kept coming up short. Gladly, such things often work themselves out.

The Challenge: We want students to be able select any lesson from a list, so that it can be displayed in the tool. We also need to remind them which lesson their mentor has designated as “current”, or “assigned”.

screenshot of items listed as radio buttons
Selecting an item renders the text as boldface


  • Highlighting more than one item loses its meaning.
  • Both indicators must work for a single list item without conflict or confusion. (Typically, the selected lesson will also be the assigned lesson.)
  • An asterisk—the obvious approach—is a small and subtle cue that is easily overlooked.

Having put off the problem as long as I could, the time came this morning to do…something…anything.

Staring at the screen with the user-dashboard open, my eyes kept landing on Jack, the MentorsOnline logo. (A hasty sketch during a whiteboard session, “Jack the mentor” has been here from the start.  “The Dude” showed up much later.)

Solution: Place a not-so-subtle icon next to a lesson that is “assigned”.

screenshot of items listed as radio buttons, one item highlighted and one has a small image of a face next to it
Selected lesson gets boldface
“Assigned” lesson gets Jack’s face

A student might finish one lesson and move on to another; or, maybe they’re not even done and just want to peek around. Now, selecting an item in the list results in highlighting, and the lesson “loads” into the tool (as seen in this short video).

Now, Jack the mentor helps us to know which lesson is assigned…that it should take priority.

An Invitation

Design decisions like this happen every day. I believe this project will reach its full potential, but only if educators toss in their 2¢. The prototype is available for DL/installation, a public Trello board has been created and the demo might be done by the time you read this. The question for you is…

What would YOU want to do, if you could be with your students right there in the browser window?

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