What makes a course look 'modern and up to date' or 'outdated' ?

Hi All,

We had a course developed several years ago in Articulate 09. Its for the business to business sales industry, mainly UK and USA, to help reps increase performance by growing their motivation, resilience and ability to cope with pressure. It's normally used within a blended learning program (with workshops and sometimes coaching).

It did the job well at the time and even won an award but it now looks dated and we need to make some changes to bring it up to date, slim it down a bit and tweak the content based on user feedback. (Upgrade to HTML5 using Studio 360 in progress to give iPad support)

My question for the community is what is it about a course that makes it look up to date and modern?  It's easy to tell whether a course feels up to date, but what are the features and attributes that result in making it up to date? In a similar way, what are the what are the features and attributes that result in making it up seem dated? (beyond no Flash and Responsive).

If you'd like to take a look at the material, you can do so here;


Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.


4 Replies
Adam Hoe

Hi Bryan,

There have certainly been a lot of trends over the years that may make a course look and feel modern. Influenced by both design and technology, you could certainly search the web and find some great articles on this. For the sake of getting to the point, I’ll try to give some constructive advice based on the example you shared. (keep in mind this is only my opinion)

I believe as users we focus a great deal on simplicity and getting to the point these days. Especially with mobile, we want to see and access everything immediately, easily locate areas of interest, but we also want it to be visually appealing. I would be tempted to strip the original course down to it’s most basic visual and informational form and slowly build it up just to the point where it is visually appealing but without any unnecessary distractions.

The original course has a lot of greys and color gradients in it. Simplify the color palette, use more solid colors (as opposed to gradients). I think you will find a little bit of color, even grey, can go a long way in a simple environment. Key items and text can get washed away in a sea of color distraction.

A very simple 1px stroke around a white text box could be more appealing and easier to read than reading white text over a color gradient text box. Or, try a white textbox with no stroke but a slight transparency. Perhaps you don’t need to use text ‘boxes’ at all!

If you want something to stand out in the text area, think about something minimal, maybe change the font type, size, color of the header. Text can be ‘design’ too.

Break free of boundaries where possible. There are a lot of borders, boxes, outlines, containers inside of containers, laid out in the original course. This includes text, shapes, images, and the UI itself. Minimize UI elements where possible. Think about what the learner really needs to interact with and how often. An extensive layout can really make the user feel visually constrained or anxious. Try to open it up and experiment to where the design feels seamless into your browser or device itself. Images can be made full screen, or cutout characters so the white background blends into the rest of the layout. If you really want to use a border. Keep it simple and clean.

As far as animations, try to make things pretty quick and simple. When Flash was popular (around the same time of your original course) we had all kinds of options to animate and design, and we (including myself) certainly did it. Probably too much  ; )

The videos are a fun addition. I don’t know what resources you have to invest, but again, some nice large high-quality or full-screen options could appeal to the user.

Anyways, these aren’t 100% rules to course design, but some food for thought. I hope it is helpful! I’m sure others will have excellent advice as well!

Phil Mayor

Hi Bryan

I would agree with Adam.

I would look at making everything look cleaner, try not to overload the slides with content.

I would remove the audio on the first slide, it is unnecessary and distracting.

From a usability point of view, if I get the question wrong twice give me the answer, i really won't get it right on the third or fourth go.

The course design should be simplified, and made consistent you use rounded and square corners, imagery probably needs updating to look less "cheesy".

I don't think you have to create a "modern" course but could look at a "classic" design that wouldn't age as quickly as this one has. I would also look at making it more interactive and fun.