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7 Visual Design Tips For Creating Effective Training Videos

How do you make your training videos more effective?

It requires a carefully crafted formula. Start with some A-class instructional design. Add in a well written script. Toss in a professionally recorded voiceover.

And what’s the finishing touch? The visuals. The actual video that your learners will be viewing on screen.

The visuals on screen are critically important to help your audience understand the information in the video. Without good visuals, many learners disconnect, get bored, or even worse, get confused on the information they are trying to learn.

We can avoid these issues by properly planning our video design. And by creating engaging visuals through the video editing process.

Editing training videos (or any videos, really) takes a lot of time. But we must take every step necessary to ensure a clean, understandable learning process. No one wants to watch a confusing video!

If you’re new to creating training videos, here are a few of our expert tips. Tips that we have used for years with much success in training and eLearning. Consider these tips to boost learning effectiveness of your training videos:


1. Show the learning objectives upfront

Before you jump into the meat of the content, make sure you show and explain the learning objectives of the video. This is especially important in videos longer than 5+ minutes. Or if a single video is teaching multiple topics.

It’s best to include this scene within the first 15-20 seconds of your video. After your title slide rolls, add in a clip that shows and explains the learning objectives on screen. Make it clear and simple, highlighting an overview of the information the training video will provide.

For example: “In this video, you will learn how to access data in charts, how to export data, and how to share data with co-workers.”


2. Simulate the real-life experience

As you begin planning your training video, think about its overall goal. What do you want the learners to be able to do after they watch the video?

Most often, the goal will be some type of real-life action; navigate an iPad app, update inventory in a system, prepare a fast-casual burrito.

As you imagine that real-life scenario, bring as many real-life elements into video as you can. Your video should aim to mimic (or simulate) that real-life scenario as closely as possible.

For example: let’s say your video is instructing people how to use an iPad app (picture example above). There a few ways you can simulate a real-life experience:

1. Use an image of an iPad in the background of the screen

2. Use real hands and fingers to navigate the app, pressing buttons and typing into fields.

Another example: If your video is teaching a team member how to create a fast-casual burrito you could:

1. Film the video in the actual location where you’d like the work to be completed.

2. Film over the shoulder of an individual to show the process from their point of view.


3. Use visual bookmarks through the entire video

One disadvantage of training videos is the time it takes for learners to know where they are in a video.

Learners can rewind and fast forward to different sections. But there is often no good way to jump to a section and know what topic is being covered. This can be frustrating and adds an unnecessary barrier to the learning process.

A simple solve for this is to add, what we call, ‘visual bookmarks’ throughout your video. We typically use a text box with a colored background at the top or side of the screen (in the example image, bookmarks are shown on right side). This ‘visual bookmark’ stays on screen for the entire duration that the topic is being discussed. As learners jump to new sections of the video, they know exactly which topic is being covered.

For example: In the sample image above, “Exporting data” would remain on screen until that section of the video is complete. Then the visual would move to “Sharing data.”

Another example: if there are 5 steps in a process, leave each step and text on screen so learners can navigate through and understand the process.


4. Highlight and annotate critical information

Your goal as a training video editor is to make every process as clear and understandable as possible.

Use highlighting, opacity filters, and annotations, to show the learner exactly what to pay attention to.

This guides focus to a specific area and helps learners recall where to look for important information when they test it out in real life.

You can also use this method if you’re using training video footage, filmed at a location. If you need learners to pay attention to a certain area of the screen, use an opacity-filtered object (like a square or circle) in the area of focus. You can even add a pulsating effect if you feel like getting fancy.

For example: If users are supposed to select the ‘Sales and Marketing’ button, highlight that box before it is clicked on screen.


5. Provide optional closed captions

We all know that learning styles aren’t real. So what is real? That every person learns differently. Some people prefer to watch videos. Others prefer to read. Many prefer to simply listen.

And sometimes, our environment prevents us from learning through our preferred medium anyway.

Providing closed captions on all training videos is a sure way to cover your bases for all learners. It also improves accessibility and improves overall watch time.  Ideally your clients LMS or video upload hub will have a feature to turn on/off captions. If not, you may need to add them manually.

We’d suggest working directly with your client to understand their preferences. But if they differ to you, we say add them in!


6. Keep graphics large and simple

Screens are small. Whenever you have a complex chart or a workflow process (seen above), try to make the graphics as large and simple as possible.

Often in training video development, we are given complex graphics and asked to simplify them into a digestible format. This skill takes years of practice to master and really requires a firm understanding of instructional design principles.

If you do have a complex graphic you are unsure of how to simplify, follow these steps:

1. Master the graphic yourself (make sure you understand it well!)

2. Write out the steps in the graphic

3. Brainstorm and draw new visuals on paper

Once you’ve developed your simplified graphic and it’s in your video, make sure you allow for enough time on screen for learners to pause the video. Often when there is a complex graphic, learners will pause the video to comprehend the information at their own speed. Make sure your training video allows a few extra seconds for this.


7. Limit your text on screen

Limited text goes without saying. No one likes a text-overloaded PowerPoint. And the same goes for training videos (that’s what the closed captioning is for!).

Assuming your training video has a voiceover, take a look at your script and only use text on-screen that is 100% necessary. Identify the essential text nuggets of information and on-screen, include the bare minimum to learn the information.

Often these essential text nuggets will be titles, steps in a process, and important vocabulary words to know.


Want more tips for creating training videos? Check out Gagne’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning.


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