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9 Visual Design Tips to Create Beautiful eLearning

by | Mar 15, 2019

Have you ever opened 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 Outdated images.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. It’s about time that changed.

Today, adult learners need more. We know humans respond positively to quality design on the internet. The most popular websites are clean, modern, smooth, and visually attractive. If a website looks old, outdated (and uses Papyrus font) we immediately exit the tab as fast as humanly possible.

The same goes for eLearning courses.

While informational content is certainly the most important piece of an eLearning course, quality visual design is a close second. People 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 rate

As you’re designing your next eLearning course, try using some of these tips to enhance your visual design:


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 CoolorsBy a simple touch of the spacebar, Coolors provides you with stunning color palettes that will make your eLearning course pop.

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 to can create the exact graphic you need, rather than settling on a generic alternative.

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 learners shoes. Think to yourself: “If I knew nothing about this topic, what type of visual would help me understand it better?”

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 rest of your eLearning course.


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 his thumb up. “Synergistic management solutions.”

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 a marketer does. You want to select 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 brand.

Here are a few websites that offer free stock images:

6. Use interactions throughout

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. Embrace the white space

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.

When used properly, white space can boost comprehension, interaction, and focus. It also helps guide the learner to important information 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 straightforward 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 amount of steps

9. Keep it all 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 eLearning course consistent? Maintain cohesive design with the same colors, same fonts, same user experience and course flow to create a familiar pattern for your learners.

About the Author:

Andrew DeBell is a learning experience strategist and content developer on the customer education team at Atlassian. Connect with him on LinkedIn for more.