The Why and How of Building an E-Learning Style Guide in Storyline

According to Wikipedia, a style guide is:

...a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field.”

But when it comes to developing e-learning, a style guide is so much more than just a set of standards. It’s an opportunity to anticipate potential project hiccups, flesh out design ideas, and address creative concerns before course development gets underway. And, it’s a great mechanism for front-loading design conversations with project stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) so they get a sense of how you’re going to transform their static content into interactive e-learning awesomeness!

Intrigued? Here’s the lowdown on why you need an e-learning style guide, why you should create it in Storyline, and how to do it. Let’s dive in!

Why an e-learning style guide?

First, let’s revisit that Wikipedia definition of a style guide, specifically this: “...a setting of standards for the writing and design of documents.”

Hmm. E-learning doesn’t really share the same characteristics as a document, does it? For one thing, it’s not static. Branding style guides are developed with static business documents, marketing collateral, and websites in mind. In its best, most engaging form, e-learning is full of animations, video, quizzes, and loads of learner-driven interactions—which means most branding style guides aren’t very helpful for e-learning developers. More so, branding style guides are targeted at an external audience and don’t usually factor in standards for interactive content that’s developed with an instructional focus. In fact, most branding style guides only contain specifications that can be applied to one or two elements of course development: visual design and writing style.

But what about how objects behave when learners are interacting with them? Do they have a hover state? If so, what does that look like? How about specifications for quizzes, and how and when they should be used? How do we give feedback to learners and what does that look like? What about when and how we use audio or video? The list of e-learning style needs goes on and on ...

Much as a branding style guide defines the standards for documents, an e-learning style guide defines the standards for interactive e-learning courses. With an e-learning style guide, you can specify design elements such as color palette, slide layouts, fonts, and image styling to ensure consistency across various courses and developers—as well as set the standards for treating interactive elements and quizzes.

Having these specifications documented is a helpful timesaver when you’re building a series of courses and you need them to look cohesive. It’s also handy when you’re working on a team of e-learning developers: with everyone following the same guidelines and specs, it’s a whole lot quicker and easier to deliver a consistent product!

Why create a style guide in Storyline?

Because e-learning is interactive, documenting specifications for interactive elements is only part of the job. Project stakeholders and SMEs have a notoriously difficult time envisioning how we’ll transform their content for e-learning. Isn’t it always helpful to show them what you can do?

That’s why it makes good sense to create an e-learning style guide in a tool that allows you and the project team to see the standards in action and demonstrate how interactive elements look and behave. That’s where a tool like Storyline comes in handy.

How do I build an e-learning style guide in Storyline?

From an assembly standpoint, building an e-learning style guide in Storyline is no different than building any other course.

To help you visualize what I mean, here’s an example of a simple style guide I built in Storyline 2.

Style Guide Example
View this project in action

Download the .story file

I used Storyline’s branching capabilities to divide up my style guide needs into three categories (or scenes): e-learning design, visual design, and interaction design. This makes it a bit easier to digest and organize.

  • The e-learning design standards encompass things like how learning objectives are written, how content is written in terms of the tone and perspective, and how and when to use quizzing and feedback.
  • The visual design standards encompass many of the things you’ll find in a traditional branding-focused style guide. Things like fonts, color palettes, logos, and image styling are all in there. You could also add user interface elements like the course player colors and configurations (menu placement, button labels, etc.) to this section.
  • The interaction design standards include a definition of interactivity specific to your organization or to the project. I’ve also added here an assortment of commonly used interaction layouts. Clicking on the thumbnail examples takes the user to a “live” version of the interaction. Additionally, I’ve included some helpful info on standard features of the interaction (click-and-reveal, simulation, etc.) and how or when they should be used.

My example includes some considerations for each of these design areas. These can be used as discussion prompts for the project team so you can build this style guide together, or you can use this space to define the standards and link to examples or supporting materials that make the concepts more concrete for the team.

Practically speaking, building an e-learning style guide with the input of your project team can be a great project management win. It can help you get out in front of design challenges that can lead to rework later on, plus give you a chance to engage them in a great conversation about how to create e-learning that’s more than just visually cohesive; it’s engaging, interactive, and effective.

More Learning

In short, an e-learning style guide is a wonderful tool for exploring creative possibilities, setting standards you’ll use and reuse from project to project, and demonstrating to project stakeholders and SMEs what it is that you do.

For more insights into the why and how of creating an e-learning style guide, don’t miss these related resources from the E-Learning Heroes archives.

Why You Need an E-Learning Style Guide

What to Include in an E-Learning Style Guide

4 Skills for Thriving as a One-Person Training Department

Have you made the leap from branding style guide to e-learning style guide? Jump into the conversation and share your tips for a smooth transition with us! And we’d love for you to follow us on Twitter, where we post the latest and greatest news about everything e-learning.

Want to try something you learned here, but don't have Articulate software? Download a free 60-day trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

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