Whether you are just getting started with eLearning design and looking to get a better understanding of eLearning best practices, or you’ve been designing courses for a while and are trying to find ways of making your material more effective, considering the basics of visual design is key.
Design is too often overlooked by course developers, or otherwise misunderstood – some eLearning designers think that as long as their course “looks good,” the visuals are sufficient. But graphical composition and design affect the way a learner takes in information, so giving a bit more thought to the visual layout of the pages of your course is an important part of eLearning best practices. Try these ten simple changes, and see the difference they make.
1. Guide the viewer’s eye:
The placement of the elements on each page should flow naturally from one to the next in a progression that lends itself to the content you’re teaching. Images and graphics should be oriented in a way that directs the reader’s attention inward and onward, never away from the screen or your content.
2. Control the clutter:
Many eLearning designers are tempted to overload their pages with content, because the authors of the material for the course included an excess of details. Figure out what’s most important, provide the reader with an avenue to access the additional information, and cut everything superfluous. An important part of eLearning best practices is identifying the critical facts and concepts and keeping things simple. Going overboard with text density in an eLearning course can be a very big deterrent to a student, especially when they’re reading on a screen.
3. Shorten your columns:
It’s easier to read a shorter line of text than a longer one; many readers feel daunted by strings of words that stretch all the way across their screen. You can make your text easier for the learner to take in by narrowing the width of your text box, or breaking a longer piece into multiple columns, like a newspaper.
Note: The ideal measurement for displaying text on screen is the 50% column “rule”, which is about 40 to 60 characters per line.
4. Proper usage of white space:
Don’t fill every spot on the screen with content or graphics. The negative space on the page can be useful to guide the reader’s attention and eliminate distractions.
Note: It is important to note that white space doesn’t need to be white. The term simply refers to empty space on a page. It’s recommended that the body of the text should occupy from 25 to 40% of the total space of a page.
5. Make smart font choices:
Your typography decisions should be informed by the needs of the content. Avoid fancy fonts that are harder to read. Use size and color to emphasize or highlight certain elements, but don’t go overboard; less is more, especially in dramatic color usage.
6. Keep things consistent:
The visual theme of your eLearning course should carry through from page to page. Getting too creative can end up distracting the reader from the content. Graphics in your eLearning should match. Also watch out for heading sizes, font choices, color scheme, button styles, and spacing. Everything must be in harmony.
7. Watch your alignment:
It should always be clear what text is associated with which images, and any tables and charts should be easy to read at a glance. Don’t make your reader puzzle out what you intended to go where. Alignment makes your course more organized and digestible, as well as making it seem more professional.
8. Let prominence inform position:
Pride of place should to go the most important information. Learners from most Western countries read left-to-right and top-to-bottom, so the most relevant pieces should be placed in the upper left of the page, and anything important should be visible at the top of the page without scrolling.
9. Offer easy access:
Don’t turn your eLearning course into a scavenger hunt. Just as in effective websites, any information that users want should be accessible in three clicks or fewer. Your learner may need to go back and review a section, or skip ahead past content they already know, so navigation should be simple and quick. In particular, you should avoid:
- Poor navigation
- Hard-to-find or nonexistent forward and back buttons
- Links that leads learners off the course
10. Employ contrasting colors
Contrast is a basic tool of graphic design, and is highly effective for keeping a viewer’s attention. Combinations of red and green, purple and yellow, and especially blue and orange, are very effective in keeping a reader’s interest.
Note: According to some studies, at the text level, if the use of chromatic contrasts is adequate, the precision and the rapidity with which information is perceived and memorized increase by 40-50% compared to simple white-black contrasts.
We hope these tips will help as you build your eLearning courses. And don’t worry about being a graphic designer pro, just spend some time learning the basics and build from there.