Research has found that 80 percent of information processed by the brain of an Internet user comes from sight and yet other studies have discovered that people are exceptionally sensitive to visual cues when learning. These two pieces of information suggest that visual content is a key factor in eLearning and applying graphic techniques appropriately could enhance knowledge acquisition.
One way to utilize the power of visual tools is through the use of color. Colors are powerful psychological triggers that help users learn better by changing their perception and evoking emotions. However, it is also important to remember that excessive use of color leads to cognitive overload and becomes counter-productive. Therefore, it is necessary to find the right balance.
eLearning developers must familiarize with color psychology before start designing. That's why this post will look at some ways in which they can use color when creating eLearning courses by taking physiological and psychological effects into consideration.
1) Use Color to Direct Attention
Color can help reduce boredom and passivity, thus improving attention spans. When learners pay more attention while learning, recall rates and reaction times increases.Numerous studies have found that when developers use colors to emphasize a particular feature or piece of content in the screen for example, the attention level of learners increases. Warm colors achieve this goal best. Specially red, when used carefully, stands out and grabs attention immediately, stimulating the visual sense and helping learners remember facts and figures.
Also read: Attention-Grabbing eLearning Design: 5 Techniques You Should Try
2) Use Strong Colors Strategically
eLearning designers should use strong and bright colors sparingly or place them over neutral background tones when designing eLearning materials. This avoids colors become too intense and attracting the eye in many directions, in which case the technique loses its effectiveness. Therefore, colors should be bold, not bright (which are hard to read) and solids, not neons (which appear unprofessional).
3) Improve Readability with Color
Color can enhance clarity and readability in the text by as much as 40 percent for two reasons: firstly, when developers strategically use color in every screen to enhance clarity of content, they automatically make concepts more logical, and help with reasoning and memory.
Secondly, color can make the content more readable. This is best achieved by designing eLearning course screens to have contrasting chromatic colors in the text and background. (Hint: Use a color wheel for finding contrasting colors).
- The most legible of all color combinations are black on yellow and green on white followed by red on white.
- Black on white is the easiest to read, on paper, and on computer screens.
- Hard colors (red, orange and yellow) are more visible and tend to make objects look larger and closer. They are easier to focus upon.
- Soft colors (violet, blue and green) are less visible and tend to make objects look smaller and further away. They aren’t as easy to focus upon.
Recommended read: The Complete Guide to Choosing A Color Palette For Your eLearning Course
4) Enhance Learning and Improve Comprehension
As color connects neuropathways, people remember colors better than verbal or textual cues alone; for instance, The Institute for Color Research – now called Color Matters, confirmed that color can improve learning from 55 percent to 78 percent as well as comprehensive by as much as 73 percent. Other studies also evidenced that colored images are recalled more than the black and white images. According to these, most people surveyed could recall more images if they were colored than if they were black and white.
In order to take advantage of this information, eLearning developers should use colors with much more intention when designing each screen; for instance, using color coding to enhance learning. For example, by using a colored background on screens with facts and concepts, learners with associate the color with the concepts and this will help them recall the information. Highly technical subjects, in particular, can benefit from this color coding method.
Also read: The Psychology of Color: How Do Colors Influence Learning?
5) Use Colors Based on Their Meanings
Even developers who personally dismiss the idea that every color has a distinct meaning should consider color connotations when designing eLearning courses. This is because the students may consider the significance of color, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Meanings of colors differ with culture, and developers should choose appropriate tones according to the culture and specific characteristics of their primary audience. In Western society, for example, red signals danger or importance, black is negative, white signifies purity, blue relates to waterbodies, and green means flora.
Colors also have learned reasons in an academic setting. For instance, red often means a mistake, but blue, on the other hand, may signal openness. Research done by Ravi Mehta and Rui (Julia) Zhu at the Sauder School of Business has found that using red can boost performance on detail-oriented tasks, such as memory retrieval and attention to detail, but it isn’t helpful if you need learners to stay on task and concentrate for extended periods of time. However, blue prompts creative output twice as much as red in tasks such as brainstorming.
eLearning designers can also use the meanings of colors to set the mood of learning, which will consequently affect performance. Red, orange, and yellow create a high-energy, stimulated course, whereas green, blue, and violet form a relaxed learning environment.
This post by Edynco, clearly explains when should we use each color in learning design:
Color Psychology: Use Cool Colors to Set Just the Right Mood for Learning
Color Psychology: Use Warm Hues to Energize Your eLearning
6) Choose the Right Color Combinations
Developers who are new to designing eLearning courses often choose colors based around their own personal tastes and preferences. Sometimes this works well, particularly when the designer has a good eye for what makes attractive combinations and what would be the right color scheme for the course. Those who are not so naturally talented would do best to refer to the basics of color theory.
One of the most useful and simplest aspects of color theory is the color wheel. This shows which colors are harmonious and helps ensure developers create a color combination that avoids straining learners’ eyes. The color wheel consists of six basic colors — red, yellow, green, blue, orange, and purple — along with their mixes. Any two colors opposite each other, any three colors equally spaced to form a triangle, and any four colors that form a rectangle will be harmonious.
In eLearning design, it is typically best to stick to a color scheme that uses three tones for a starting point as this is enough to create variation and visual interest without being overwhelming. A triadic color scheme based around the color wheel, therefore, is guaranteed to bring good results. eLearning designers should also stick to the 60-30-10 rule — rather than using an equal amount of each colors, they should divide color use into 60 percent, 30 percent, and 10 percent.
You can also use this Color ‘Wheel of Emotions’ as a guide to choose the colors of your course.
- Online Quiz: Color Theory for Non-Designers
- A Quick Recap on Color Theory (1-min video)
- Color Theory: Quick Reference Sheet for Designers
- How colors can enhance memory performance?
- Maping Emotion to Color
- Tutorial: Understanding how color affects readability