By: Karla Gutierrez

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September 3rd, 2013

10 DIY Tips for Effective eLearning Design

eLearning design | eLearning | eLearning tips

It’s ok if you’re not a professional designer

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a designer on tap for every eLearning project. And truth is, most of us aren’t graphic designers nor have extensive formal training in visual design.

Certainly, you don't have to be a professional designer to create courses effective eLearning courses. However, learners often "buy e-learning" with their eyes and if they don't find it attractive it won't motivate them to learn. Good news is that even without technical training, your eLearning screens can look great and impress learners immediately. This post will help you discover some simple tips that will fool anyone into thinking you’re a pro.

Learn how you (a non-designer) can create amazing eLearning screens following these 10 simple guidelines:

eLearning design

1) Strong Images

Text and images work better together—if you know how to use them. With text as the “data”, your images can serve as a complementary element that delivers the emotional impact. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to achieve this. Let the right picture support your message. Purposeful images can add impact to a screen. It can even increase retention six times more, as research has shown. 

As a start, you can:

  • Use a series of relevant images instead of rows of bullet points. Bullet points and lists can be boring, great images are not.  
  • Use photographs instead of clip art for a more professional feel. In case you decide to use clip art, be sure to choose high-quality images and avoid generic ones.
  • Use images that evoke surprise, compassion, laughter, or other positive emotional response. Using strong and purposeful graphics will help you enhance the emotional appeal of the screens. 

2) Be Consistent: Stick to a Scheme or Theme

Oftentimes, people with little or no design experience create eLearning courses that include mismatched color schemes. It’s key that you decide on a slide layout and stick to it. Changing it makes it harder for learners to adjust to and understand your material. Consistent use of a single color palette throughout the course helps the user avoid distraction, while guiding their attention to the most important points. Consistency with other design elements such as background and font is important as well. The look and feel must capture and maintain the attention of learners ALWAYS. 

3) Keep Titles Simple and Informative

Are your headings and titles descriptive and informative? Can learners easily grasp their meaning? Make sure your audience knows what you will be covering. Use simple and precise words. You may even have to rewrite most of your titles, as effective copywriters do, and choose the best among your options.

4) Design a Distraction-Free Template

Design is not decoration. Always bear this in mind. Effective design, after all, enables users to focus on the essentials; mere decoration distracts them.

Nancy Duarte, writer and graphic designer who is known for her bestselling books on great presentations, notes that 90 percent of the creative process should be destructive. You have to slowly and thoughtfully peel away the unnecessary elements, Duarte explains.

Designing your material, then, has a lot to do with sticking to the essentials and arranging them properly.

5) Use Colors Effectively

Color is very important, especially to eLearning designers. They are powerful in that they elicit emotions, latent ones included. So using the right colors can effectively deliver the emotional reaction you expect from your audience.

Choose black or any dark colors for text, and white or soft tones for background. Avoid making screens too "busy" with losts of colors. Simple is often best. Try not to use more than three colors as they would only make your course look cluttered. 

There are many online resources that will help you in creating a color palette. Try to choose among these tools: Kuler, Color Rotate, and Color Explorer

6) Empty Spaces Matters

Start with an empty space. Great designers do. They see empty space as important as content. They see it as a powerful space, complete on its own. Thus, you don’t have to fill in an empty space. White spaces are effective in helping users see what’s important and what to focus on. They pave the way to a better understanding, clearer presentation of ideas and effective eLearning designs.  

7) Break Up the Text

Don’t try to fit a whole novel on each screen. If you really need to present a lot of text, break up content. Break text up into lists, tables, and paragraphs. Do this if you want to make your paragraphs readable on the screen. Break ideas into short blocks of text and spaces in between. 

8) Keep Your Lists Short

A bullet or a number list should have no more than 5 or 7 items in it. Otherwise, your long list will only make it harder for learners to understand. See if you can naturally break your points into smaller groups or use an alphabetical list to provide order. The point is to make it easy for readers to keep track of your ideas.

9) Simplify Your Visual Data 

Don’t try to outsmart your audience with complicated graphics. Keep your charts, graphs and diagrams straightforward and to the point. Your visual data should make it easy for your audience to grasp complicated information. 

10) Make it Easier for Your Audience to Stay Focused

Make sure that every element plays a role in moving the learner towards his or her goal. Don’t get caught up with colors and fonts. Focus, instead, on your main objectives.

While these guidelines may seem like beginner stuff, you’d be surprised how often they’re overlooked by eLearning professionals. Great-looking screens come from learning the basics. These won't earn you a living as a graphic designer, but they will make your screens stand out so that students will be more apt to learn. Promise! 

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About Karla Gutierrez

Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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