how to create an e-learning style guide

Creating an e-learning style guide for your courses is like laying out the rules for how future courses will look. While some individuals will contend that a style guide cramps their freedom of expression, there are many good reasons to put one in place. An e-learning style guide:

  • ensures a polished and professional output,
  • provides a consistent look and feel across courses,
  • is an easy reference document for developers,
  • encourages use of best practices,
  • saves time—meaning less time wasted reviewing and editing design choices.

Creating a style guide is particularly helpful for organizations in which many people in many departments are building training, but projects need to have consistency.

What to Include?

Once you decide to create an e-learning style guide, you’ll need to consider what to include.

Logos

The logo is an important visual piece of any brand. Your style guide should explain where and when to use the logo. You might also set specifications for the acceptable size, placement, and/or color variations for the logo. It’s always helpful to show examples of correct use.

Fonts

Most organizations have a few fonts they prefer or feel reflect their corporate personality. Your style guide should outline which fonts to use for which purpose. For example, you might always use a chunky heading font for lesson titles and a simple sans-serif for the body text on your slides.

Tone or Voice

Every company has a different corporate voice, whether it’s professional and serious or whimsical and fun, and that should come through in the materials. Share a few example paragraphs that are in line with the brand, and maybe words or phrases to be avoided.

Colors

How a color looks varies from one monitor to the next, so it’s important to provide actual hex values for your color scheme. You may specify whether your company allows various tints or shades of the colors, and where specific colors are required.

Image Guidelines

Photographic style can be a huge reflection of a specific brand, so consider including guidelines about which types of images to use, or whether designers should choose from any specific photographers or stock image series.

Writing Tips

This could include things like rules for how to name courses, modules, lessons, assessments, activities, etc., as well as how to capitalize and punctuate lists, and whether to use numbers as numerals or spelled out in full.

Buttons

If you have a standard look for buttons, include it in the style guide, as well as tips for which buttons to use for what activities.

Templates

If you’ve created PowerPoint or Articulate Storyline templates, your style guide is a great place to let people know where to download them. You can also include screenshots with simple instructions for various types of slides or activities. Consider creating a template player skin and making it available for download.

Miscellaneous

Depending on your organization and your projects, you might have other items to include in your style guide—tips for navigation flow or instructions for naming variables, for example. Anything that shows up or is used across multiple courses should be considered for the style guide.

Additional Tips

  • Don’t be too strict. Remember to leave a bit of wiggle room for creativity and originality.
  • Be helpful, not condescending. Your goal is to create awesome-looking courses.  
  • Show examples of what to do and what not to do. Examples are super-helpful!

Remember: a style guide is a great way to ensure consistency in your look and feel across multiple projects. What would you include in your own e-learning style guide? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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12 Comments
Jonas Klingström

Thank you for a very helpful post! I think another important point is not to go all in with the corporate brand in guidelines like these. Guidelines for marketing (or worse, ppts) are inadequate for interactive learning, they're simply not designed with learning in mind, but rather marketing which is a completely different beast. I would put this additional tip at the top: "- Don’t be too strict. Remember to leave a bit of wiggle room for creativity and originality." Emotion is a huge part of learning, and the interface of a course is one of the most important aspects of creating the mood of a course. Messing about with guidelines that are too strict really is really getting ahead of the interface design of the learning material. For example positive emotional states have been s... Expand

Mark McCreesh

Hi not as yet No! Mark McCreesh eLearning Advisor The Learning Academy - Darlington Student Loans Company (: Ext: 45521 The Learning Academy - Darlington 8 : Intranet Site *: Darlington Inbox (: 0141 243 2002 ******************************************************************************************************* The information from the Student Loans Company Ltd contained in this e-mail is private and privileged. If you have received this e-mail in error be advised that any use is strictly prohibited. Please notify us and delete the message from your computer. You may not copy or forward it or use or disclose its contents to any other person. As internet communications are capable of data corruption it may be inappropriate to rely on advice or opinions contained in an e-mail without ob... Expand

Amber Gab

Here is one that I liked to read to get an idea of how style guides were written. https://www.google.com/design/spec/style/writing.html#writing-language Here are some that I liked just to get an idea of what should be included. http://theelearningcoach.com/media/graphics/visual-style-guide-for-elearning/ http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/286472/Creating-a-Visual-Style-Guide-for-eLearning-What-Should-You-Include These were helpful for me. It worked best for me to start working on my eLearning files and then decide what looked best. From there I built my style guide. If I didnt' have information for a certain piece like what images to use - I ended up making a section header and then I put a note that information would be put in here at one point. I started with my style g... Expand