7 Visual Design Tips For Beautiful eLearning Courses
Have you ever sat through an eLearning course and thought, “Uh, was this made in 1994?”
Poor design. Outdated images. Slow transitions. Cheesy voice overs.
We’ve all been there. And about time to change that. Forever.
Today, learners deserve more. We already know humans respond positively to quality design online. Just look around on the internet and you’ll see the most popular websites are clean, modern, smooth, and attractive. If a website looks old, outdated, and uses Papyrus font, we exit out of that tab as fast as humanly possible.
The same goes for eLearning courses.
While learning content is certainly the most important component of an eLearning course, quality visual design is a close second. These days, people want to learn from images. From videos. From well-designed, interactive experiences.
Visual design can make or break a learning experience.
What are the benefits of quality visual design in eLearning?
- Deeper learning
- Higher levels of engagement
- Increased course completion
The truth is, many eLearning developers overlook visual design and focus solely on content. But more often than not, content isn’t enough.
As you’re designing your next eLearning course, see if you can challenge yourself to enhance your visual design. Consider these tips as you try it out for yourself:
1. Stick with 2-3 colors
Remember websites from the late 1990s that used every neon color in the rainbow? That’s what we want to avoid here. If you’re creating a color palette from scratch, choose two or three colors at most and use those throughout your entire eLearning course.
To make sure your colors pack a cohesive flow, try using a color palette generator like
Most often, you won’t have to create your own color palette from scratch. If you’re working for a company or client, they probably have brand guidelines you can pull from. Browse their brand guidelines and use the colors suggested. This will help create a clean, cohesive look and feel for your eLearning course, and make your client happy.
2. Use a clean, readable font
Similar to colors, use only one or two fonts through your entire course. And it’s best if you can use the fonts from your company’s brand guidelines.
Or you can choose a simple font family yourself. If selecting yourself, make sure you choose a font that is easy to read, yet still carries a modern style. Be very careful and deliberate with your font selection. Certain fonts can be hard to read, carry a negative stigma, or have been worn out from overuse. Here are a few suggestions to keep you on the right track:
Safe font choices: Roboto, Droid Sans, Calibri, Helvetica, Lato, Georgia, PT Sans, (Times New Roman and Arial also work if your options are limited)
Fonts to avoid: Comic Sans, Papyrus, Impact, Bradley Hand, Courier, Curlz
3. Learn how to use visual design software
Knowing the basics of Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator can drastically enhance your eLearning design. While many eLearning design programs provide a library of stock graphics, you can create a more powerful learning experience using customized graphics. This is because you
While these programs may seem intimidating at first, there are many free learning resources on YouTube to get you started with the basics. Spend a few hours learning the basics and the begin incorporating customized graphics into your next eLearning program.
4. Create simple graphics
We’ve all experienced a Powerpoint presentation with overly complex graphs and charts that no one understands. They are all too common in the business world.
Before you create any graphic for your eLearning course, put yourself in your
Think basics. Think simplicity. Think elementary.
Draw out a few ideas on paper. Select your best idea and bring your design to life.
Not sure if your graphic is simple enough? Try the 5-second test. Grab a friend, or co-worker, and show them your graphic. If it takes them more than 5-seconds to understand, consider simplifying further. 5-seconds is all your learners will give you before they move on.
One last thing on creating graphics: try to use the 2-3 colors you’ve already selected for the theme of your course. This will help create a clean, cohesive look and will blend smoothly with
5. Select quality stock images
No one likes those cheesy business images from the 90s. You know the one: the man glowing from florescent office lights in a stiff suit, sticking up his thumb. “Synergistic management.”
Nowadays, there are many modern stock images available. And there is such variety that you can pinpoint your exact audience.
Think of stock image selection as you would as a marketer. You want to pick images that your audience will resonate with. That your audience will relate to. And most often that means images that actually look like your audience. Keep your images modern and on
Here are a few websites that offer free stock images:
6. Create interactive visuals
Including interactive elements to your course is a simple, yet powerful way to enhance your learning program.
Elements such as quizzes, flip cards, and sorting activities, you can turn a “meh” eLearning course into a powerful, memorable experience.
Development software programs like Articulate Rise offer a lengthy list of interactive components to help freshen up your course.
Remember to keep your interactive elements on brand and match with your color scheme.
7. White space is your friend
A common mistake of new visual designers is to fill all of the available space with text and graphics. But remember, white space is your friend.
White space can be defined as the empty, or negative space in your eLearning course.
But you have to make sure you use it properly.
Rather than information overload, white space creates a clean, cohesive, and beautiful feel to your eLearning courses.
So, just remember: Add only what is necessary. Don’t overdo it with images.
8. Create a clean user experience
Your learners need to be guided. They need clear directions. A guided path to course completion.
Having a poor user experience is one of the worst mistakes you can make in eLearning development. A mistake that instantly turns your learners off, causing them to skip the module. Or worse, bail on the course altogether.
An eLearning developer’s goal is to create a smooth, fluid learning experience. One that is easy to follow and simple to navigate.
Creating a clean user experience starts with your planning. As you review your course outline, consider how each section flows together. If you aren’t sure where to start, try reading some UX design articles. And remember a few key tips of good user experience:
- Trim the fat
- Don’t make users guess
- Prioritize content
- Maximize clarity
- Don’t use jargon or acronyms
- Shorten the
9. Stay consistent
Humans love consistent patterns. When our brains recognize a pattern over and over, we subconsciously switch to autopilot. This is extremely helpful as it allows us to focus our attention and energy on something else.
That’s why consistency is key for online eLearning courses. If your learner doesn’t have to guess where to navigate or what to click on next, it allows them to maintain focus on the target learning content. Rather than wasting energy in unnecessary places, your learners can keep their attention on the course materials.
How do you keep your