We have been designing eLearning for quite some time now, but this blog post from Canva made us realize that great design is actually simple to create if you follow a few rules. So we thought we will spill the beans and let the world (the other eLearning designers who are still fumbling with the rules of the game) know about the 9 essential design tactics that will magically transform ho-hum eLearning courses into scintillating works without compromising on instructional effectiveness.
Here’s your visual design checklist:
1- The Power of Focus: Is There a Visual Focal Point?
As your learners are likely busy and accustomed to being entertained by engaging content, it's important to ensure that your course not only catches their eye but also holds their attention. One way to do this is to create clear visual focal points that demand their focus.
To ensure your course achieves this, ask a coworker to review it and share their initial impression. If they found themselves bored or distracted by their surroundings, it may be necessary to revisit the design and consider how to improve the visual appeal.
2- Designing for Clarity: Is There Logical Continuity?
Have you ever experienced the frustration of navigating a cluttered website with hidden links, or getting lost in a confusing shopping mall? Poor design can make even simple tasks a nightmare. As an eLearning designer, it's important to ensure that your course doesn't fall into this category.
Maintaining a clear and logical flow is essential for effective eLearning design. It's how you guide learners through your course without causing confusion or uncertainty about what comes next. Here are some key pointers to keep in mind:
- Chunk and sequence the content first. This helps you figure out how you will place the various elements on the screen, so they follow a natural and logical sequence.
- Arrange graphical elements so that they direct learner attention to the content and through it, not away from the screen.
- Build gaps into your design or space out the elements, so the learner can pause and let the content cement in his mind.
Meanwhile, here are some more pointers on how to create an effective and enticing visual design flow.
3- Finding the Perfect Pairing: Do the Different Typefaces Gel with One Another?
Mixing typefaces can be an effective way to add visual interest to your eLearning course. However, it's important to be mindful of using too many typefaces, which can lead to clutter and confusion. To ensure your typography choices enhance rather than detract from your course, consider these tips:
- Use serif and sans serif fonts in titles to create contrast.
- Choose typefaces that match the mood and the personality of the content.
- Choose typefaces that appeal to the sensibilities of your audience.
- Choose readable typefaces. If you are unsure, choose simplicity over novelty.
Here are some more tips on how to choose a typeface for your course.
4- Readability Matters: Have You Ensured There Are No Readability Issues?
Your learners have come to your course to absorb the content, so it's crucial to make sure that they can easily read what's on the screen. Poor readability can detract from the effectiveness of your course and even cause learners to lose interest.
To ensure that your text is readable, consider the following tips:
- Choose the right size for the text.
- Choose readable fonts. Don’t sacrifice readability to create contrast. Here are some tips on how to pair fonts to maintain a balance between readability and quirkiness.
- Contrast is key. Choose a font and background colors so that the text stands out.
- Be careful of column length. Many learners feel overwhelmed when they are made to read large chunks of text that run right across the width of the screen. You can create narrow text boxes or space out the text across multiple columns (newspaper style) to create an illusion of sparseness.
5- Designing for Impact: Is Your eLearning Course Consistent?
Achieving harmony in your eLearning design is not only aesthetically pleasing but also makes sense for learners. While contrast can be exciting and attention-grabbing, it's important not to overwhelm learners with an excessive mix of fonts, colors, templates, and layouts. When too many graphical elements clash, it can create a jarring effect. Instead, focus on simplicity and use the following tips to create a harmonious eLearning experience:
- Create a unifying theme that runs throughout the course.
- Choose a scheme for fonts, colors, and templates so that every page looks like it is a part of the same course.
- Do not overlook seemingly inconsequential elements like buttons, heading sizes, and spacing. Every element on the screen should adhere to the theme.
- Create a standards document for every project. This ensures team members working on a project are on the same page and know how creative they can be so that they do not end up creating wildly different designs.
6- Creating Visual Interest: Are You Incorporating Contrast?
While harmony and balance are essential design strategies in eLearning, contrast is equally critical for enhancing instructional effectiveness and creating visual interest that engages learners.
Draw Attention: Contrast can be used to emphasize critical information, such as key concepts or instructions, by making them stand out from the rest of the content.
Enhance Readability: Contrast between text and background can improve readability, making it easier for learners to absorb and retain information.
Create Visual Hierarchy: Contrast can be used to create a visual hierarchy that guides learners through the content, helping them to identify the most important information and navigate the course more effectively.
Increase Engagement: The strategic use of contrast can make the course more visually engaging and interesting for learners, increasing their motivation to learn.
To achieve these benefits, consider using contrasting colors, font sizes, shapes, and layouts throughout your eLearning course. However, be mindful not to overuse contrast, which can become overwhelming and distract from the instructional content.
7- The Yin and Yang of eLearning Design: Do Form and Function Balance?
As an eLearning designer, it's important to strike a balance between creating visually stunning courses and delivering substantive content. While it's tempting to focus solely on form, you must also prioritize functionality and ensure that learners can easily navigate and absorb the material.
To achieve this, keep the following pointers in mind:
Organize On-Screen Elements: Arrange on-screen elements in a logical and intuitive manner so that learners don't have to search for essential information.
Emphasize Critical Information: Highlight the most important information on the screen using techniques such as contrast, color, and font size to draw learners' attention to critical pieces of content.
Maintain a Consistent Layout: Create a consistent layout throughout your course to help learners establish a mental model of how the course is structured and where they can find information.
Prioritize Navigation: Ensure that navigation is easy to use and intuitive so that learners can move through the course seamlessly.
8- Making Room for Learning: Is There Enough White Space on the Screen?
Optimizing screen real estate in eLearning design doesn't mean cramming every inch of available space with text and graphics. In fact, doing so can overwhelm learners and make it difficult for them to find the information they need.
To avoid this, it's important to create an illusion of space by incorporating white space into your design. White space, or negative space, provides a visual breather for learners and allows them to reflect on the content they've just learned before moving on to the next piece of information. By eliminating clutter and distractions, white space helps learners focus on the most important content and enhances their overall learning experience.
You can use white space in different ways:
Prioritize Important Information: Use white space to highlight and emphasize critical pieces of information on the screen.
Break Up Content: Use white space to separate text into manageable chunks, making it easier for learners to read and digest the information.
Focus on Balance: Use white space to create balance between graphical elements and text, ensuring that the screen doesn't appear cluttered or overwhelming.
9- Connecting on a Deeper Level: Have You Created the Right Mood for Learning?
One powerful technique for capturing learners' attention is to tickle their emotions and create a layout that feels good and sets the right mood. By designing eLearning courses that engage learners on an emotional level, you can enhance their motivation to learn and improve their retention of key concepts. To achieve this, consider the following strategies:
Use Storytelling: Incorporate stories or case studies that resonate with learners on a personal level and evoke an emotional response.
Utilize Multimedia: Use multimedia elements such as images, videos, and audio that create a sensory-rich learning experience and enhance learners' emotional engagement.
Consider Tone and Style: Use a tone and style that aligns with the course content and the learners' needs, creating a cohesive and emotionally resonant experience.
Not all great designers are born. You can learn design skills by following the works of the masters, from experience, and by getting into the shoes of the learners to gauge what motivates them to keep going through a course.