4 Ways to Give Your Storyline Course an App-Like Feel Illustration

It’s no secret that apps are hot. Since their introduction, apps have grown from simply being tools to becoming their own design trend. Now, adding a modern, app-like feel and function to e-learning courses is all the rage, as a timely and attractive way to engage learners. And with Articulate Storyline, it’s easier than ever to create an app-like interface for your course. Let’s take a look at four design tips to keep in mind, whether you’re creating desktop or mobile courses.

1. Consider Placement of Navigation Bar

In most mobile apps, the navigation bar is either on the top or bottom of the screen, because these are the areas that users access most easily by their dominant fingers (index and thumb). It’s logical, then, to design your course following the same rule of thumb (so to speak) to optimize the user experience.

To create a navigation bar in Storyline, simply insert a rectangle across the top or bottom of the screen and adapt the format as needed.

Navigation Bar Screenshot

2. Limit the Number of Buttons

Open any app on your smartphone or tablet. How many buttons do you see? Most applications only have three to five buttons on the navigation bar, which is a big reason why they’re so easy to use.

When you’re designing for mobile devices, only include the buttons that are 100% necessary. Whittle down which buttons learners need to navigate your course and cut out the excess. For example, you may want to include some of these buttons on your navigation bar:

  • Home: to bring you back to the homepage or course index.
  • Previous/Next: if there’s more than one page per chapter.
  • Glossary: if your course contains terms that may be unfamiliar to some learners.

Number of Buttons Screenshot

3. Use Icons

Most apps use icons to represent the function of a button. This approach has two main advantages. First, icons generally take up less space than text. And second, since there is no text (assuming you pick icons that are universally recognizable), there is no need for translation for localized versions. Here are some examples of commonly used icons:

  • Home: house icon.
  • Previous/Next: arrows.
  • Glossary: book, notebook, or notepad.

Don’t have any icons on hand? No worries! Build your own using the shapes available in Storyline, or download this free icon set and you’ll be ready to go.

Icons Screenshot

Pro Tip: If you’re creating your own icons using a combination of shapes, try making them on a larger scale first so it’s easier to see the details. Then, when you’re finished, group all the shapes together and use the double-arrow in the corner to scale down the group without impacting your design. Easy peasy!

Scale Group of Shapes Screenshot

4. Increase the Button Size

The last thing to take into account to create an app-like feel is to increase the size of your navigation buttons. Since most mobile devices have touchscreens, app buttons are designed to be “finger-friendly,” or easily clickable using your finger, unlike computer buttons, which are designed for mouse cursors.

I recommend creating buttons that are at least 45 pixels tall and 75 pixels wide to ensure they are easy to select. Remember to leave enough space between buttons so that people don’t accidentally click on the wrong one.

Button Size Screenshot


There are a lot of other things to consider when designing an app-like interface, but hopefully these tips will help get you started. Feel free to share your own in the comments section below.

Short on time? Lacking inspiration? Download the app-inspired template in this post or one of the other two below to get a jump-start on your course design:

Want to know how David Anderson created the Storyline template above? Check out this video tutorial.

If you want to learn more about designing courses for mobile devices, check out this article by Nicole Legault or this discussion in the Building Better Courses hub.

Eager to try something you learned here, but haven’t got around to checking out Articulate software? Go ahead and download a free trial. Remember to come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest e-learning tips and tricks.