As a course author, we know it's important for you to be able to create courses that work well for all your learners—regardless of ability. One of the Storyline 360 features that'll help you do that is Text styles.
And get this: using text styles not only helps you create more accessible courses—it’ll actually save you time.
Before we talk about how to use text styles, let’s step back and talk about what makes them useful.
The Importance of Information Hierarchy
Take a look at this slide:
There’s a lot going on here, but my guess is that after a quick glance you’ve already put together that:
- There are two columns: Q3 and Q4.
- Each column has 3 months in it.
- And for each month, there’s one project.
With all that information, you might have deduced that you’re looking at a company’s plans for Q3 and Q4. If so, you’d be right!
Isn’t it amazing how quickly your brain makes connections when there’s a clear hierarchy of information?
Now look at this slide:
It’s got all the same information as the previous slide, but it’s much harder to parse. My guess is that had I not already shown you the previous slide, it would take you a while to figure out what this slide is about. That’s because there’s no clear hierarchy of information, so it’s harder for your brain to figure out how everything is connected.
What Are Text Styles & How Do They Work?
So what does this have to do with text styles? Good question!
Text styles is a feature of Storyline 360 that allows you to define specific formatting for each heading level, making it easy to create a visual hierarchy of information. You can define a specific color, font, and size for your slide title (or Heading 1) and choose totally different formatting for your subheadings (or Heading 2).
To assign a text style to a textbox, simply select it, click on the Text Styles button, and choose the text style you want to apply.
The formatting you’ve chosen will be applied automatically. And if you want to update the formatting of a given style, you can do that once and it’ll update all the related textboxes. What a time-saver!
But that’s not all! When you use text styles, you’re not only creating a visual hierarchy of information for sighted learners—you’re also creating an auditory hierarchy of information for screen reader learners. That’s because when you apply a text style—like Heading 1—that information is read aloud by the screen reader, providing learners with additional context.
For a step-by-step guide on using this awesome feature, check out this handy tutorial: Storyline 360: Using Text Styles.
Why You Should Use Text Styles
If the idea of saving time isn’t enough to convince you, hopefully the goal of providing a better learning experience is.
Remember this slide?
That’s what the screen reader experience is like when you don’t use text styles. There’s no context to help learners understand your content.
Would you feel comfortable presenting your learners with a slide like this? Probably not. When you don’t use text styles, that’s basically the experience you’re providing to your screen reader learners.
And if screen readers want to skim over your content before diving in—like many sighted users do—they won’t be able to. That’s because without text styles, screen readers can’t separate headings from body text.
By using text styles, you’re providing screen reader users with an experience that’s equivalent to your sighted learners. That means your course is genuinely accessible for all your learners.
Text Styles Best Practices
Now that you understand why text styles are important and how to work with them in Storyline 360, here are some tips for using them effectively.
- Use H1s for slide titles. Screen readers automatically announce the slide title when learners move forward or backward through your course, whether or not the title is actually visible on the slide. But it’s still a best practice to include a slide title with an H1 attribute on every slide. This will make the screen reader announce the slide title twice the first time around, but it will allow them to review the slide content more easily if they want to. Screen reader users are used to double reading, so it doesn’t bother them any more than it would bother you to see the name of the course repeated on every slide.
- Use H2s for subsections of a slide. If your slide content is divided up into subsections, you should use H2 headers for the titles of each subsection. This will allow learners to understand the relationship between the slide title and the subsection titles.
- Use H3 and H4s if needed. For most slides, you probably won’t need to use H3 and H4 headers. But if you have a slide with a complex hierarchy of information—like the one we saw earlier—you should consider them.
- Don’t skip levels. If you have an H3, you should have an H2 and an H1. If not, the learners could get confused. They might think they’re missing information.
- Create custom styles as needed. If you don’t apply a text style to a textbox in Storyline 360, it’ll be labeled as normal text by default. If you want to give screen reader learners additional context regarding the significance of a section of text—and it’s not a heading—you can create a custom text style. For example, if you have a slide with instructions followed by actual content, you could create an Instructions text style so learners know they can skip over it if they don’t need any.
Pro tip: Link styles are applied automatically when you add a hyperlink. You don’t need to do anything manually unless you want to edit the formatting.
Creating accessible e-learning courses is about ensuring equal experiences for all your learners—not about checking boxes on a list of requirements. Making text styles part of your Storyline 360 workflow is an easy way to boost your course’s usability for all learners. Not to mention, it’ll actually save you time. It’s a win-win!
For more detailed information on using text styles in Storyline 360, head on over to these in-depth articles:
And if you’re looking for more accessibility content, be sure to dive into this article series: All About Accessibility
Want to try text styles out for yourself, but don’t have Storyline 360? Start a free 30-day trial of Articulate 360. And subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest product updates, e-learning examples, and expert advice directly in your inbox.