The visual design of your e-learning impacts everything from its usability to how well it supports learning. The ideal visual design is eye-catching (in a good way!), effectively guides the user’s attention, and hopefully captures their imagination or immerses them in an engaging experience. When the visual design is well executed, it makes it easier for learners to focus, grasp, and retain the content they’re learning.
Sounds awfully important, right? It is. So it’s no wonder that e-learning noobs with little or no graphic design experience find visual design so intimidating! If you’re a relative noob, you may feel a little less than confident about your visual design skills. By far the easiest solution is to rely on professionally designed slide templates like the ones you'll find in Content Library, one of the awesome new tools in Articulate 360.
Need to create a custom visual design from scratch? I've created a short checklist of visual design basics to help make sure your courses are as attractive as they are effective.
The Visual Design Checklist
Are the course user interface (UI) elements, like navigation buttons, the menu, video controls, easy to find and use?
E-learning is an interactive experience. Much like navigating an application or a website, people need visual cues to tell them what to do next and where to click. To make sure your UI design is easy for learners to use, check out this awesome article by Nicole Legault, “User Interface Design: 3 Things E-Learning Designers Need to Know.”
Are the visuals appropriate for the tone of your subject matter?
Colors, image styles—even the font you choose—all work together to give your course’s visual design a distinctive tone. To avoid sending mixed signals to learners, make sure your style choices sync up with the purpose and message of the course.
How do you nail the right look and feel for your course? Check out David Anderson’s tips for Design Mapping. Not only is design mapping a fun exercise, it’s also a really effective way to develop fresh ideas for your projects.
Are your layouts making good use of the available space?
Particularly when it comes to learning, folks need to be able to direct their attention and focus on the information you’re sharing. Here are a few visual design must-haves to make sure your slide layouts are doing just that …
A focal point. A focal point serves as a visual “hook” that attracts learners and draws their attention. Having a focal point on each slide is the foundation of a visual hierarchy—that is, the ordering of design elements on the screen to make it clear what learners should look at first and how they should proceed to navigate the rest of the information on the screen: should their eyes move up or down, or left to right?
A focal point is usually an image or on-screen text. A few of the many attributes that can elevate text or an image to focal point status include size, shape, color, texture, and placement.
Adequate white space. White space includes things like margins around the edges of your layout, as well as line spacing, cell padding in tables, column spacing, or the empty spaces between objects. Too little white space can lead to your layout looking cluttered or crowded. Too much white space makes it hard for folks to make connections between design elements on the screen.
Not sure if you’ve got adequate white space in your design? Try removing nonessential elements or adding more space to see if it feels like there’s a little more breathing room.
- Logical object placement. The concept of proximity—that is the placement of related design elements relative to one another—is a powerful way to visually communicate with your learners. Grouping related items in a logical way—say, a button right next to the object that button relates to—will help make your layout more intuitive for learners.
Is there visual consistency from slide to slide?
Having a nicely balanced visual design is something your learners will expect to see on every slide in your course, not just a select few! And the single best thing you can do to meet those expectations is to create more visual consistency or cohesion from slide to slide. Some ways to create that sense of visual continuity include:
- Integrating the course player into the styling of your slides.
- Using a consistent color theme throughout your project.
- Using consistent typefaces throughout your project.
- Placing design elements like screen titles, text boxes, and buttons in the same location on each slide.
Are graphics and images being used purposefully?
To help learners focus, it’s always a good idea to cut the clutter and minimize the use of purely decorative elements that may be distracting or confusing. Instead, focus on simplifying your design. Use visuals that support learning by consolidating or clarifying information that would otherwise end up as a lot of on-screen text.
Don’t let a lack of visual design prowess get the best of you! E-Learning Heroes has oodles of resources, articles, discussions, and how-tos that can help you build your skills as you go. Check out some of these awesome resources to continue your visual design education:
Trying to build your visual design skills? Share your story with the friendliest e-learning community in the world by leaving us a comment below, or starting your own discussion. Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.