Design is incredibly important in eLearning. Poor design can have a dramatic impact on learning outcomes. Inconsistency, poor size and spacing, irrelevant images and illegible fonts are some of the mistakes we see time and time again.
Here are the eight common mistakes that you should avoid.
1. Lack of contrast
For readability, it is better to have a high contrast pairing between the body copy and the background on which it sits.
You can use contrast effectively in eLearning to direct the viewer’s attention to specific elements on the screen, but we frequently see links, buttons and other calls to action that are overlooked due to the lack of contrast between the text and the background.
Contrast is especially important for learners with dyslexia – pay attention to this and help your courses become more accessible.
2. Poor use of color
Keep in mind that an estimated 8% of the world’s male population are color blind. Try to turn your eLearning into black and white and see if the important parts stand out without the color.
Red / green color blindness is the most common – don’t use these colors on their own to indicate correct / incorrect answers, make sure that you accompany them with clear symbols.
You can check your own color blindness using the Ishihara test – can you see the numbers in the circles below?
Answer at the end of the blog.
Changing color scheme throughout the course is distracting. Using a consistent color scheme ties your eLearning module together. If you suddenly completely change your use of color, the learner will try to make sense of it, diverting their attention from the learning which you want to take place.
3. Small buttons
Button size and appearance are crucial, especially in today’s digital age.
Small buttons can often be lost within the content on screen, therefore a consistent size, style and placement of all navigational elements should be used throughout a course.
Small buttons are also difficult to access if you are building learning to be consumed on mobile devices, which can make it hard for learners to move through the course.
4. Too much text
It’s all too common to see eLearning slides crammed with text, presenting content in a dull, monotonous way to learners. The whole point of eLearning is to add value above and beyond just giving the learner a PDF.
If your course contains masses of text on screen, perhaps think about alternatives – how could you turn it into graphs, charts, process flows, interactions, questions, games, infographics or videos? Instructional design is key to the success of your courses.
5. Hard to read fonts
Using unclear or hard to read fonts (or font sizes) is a common mistake in eLearning. Fonts should match the overall style and content that you’re presenting to your learners (and probably your corporate brand guidelines!).
If they don’t, this is off-putting and could hinder learning success. It’s also bad for accessibility.
Sans-Serif fonts are easier to read on screen, compared to Serif fonts.
Serif fonts (like Times Roman) are the ones used in more traditional books and printed documents, and have the flowing ends to letters that draw the eye from one to the next. Sans-serif fonts (like Arial, or Verdana) have cleaner letters, which look clearer on screen.
For the same reason, use bold for emphasis, rather than italic, which is much harder to read.
Best practice tip: Never use more than two fonts in one eLearning slide.
6. Distracting audio
While audio can sometimes help with delivering an enhanced, engaging piece of learning, it can also be distracting, irritating or irrelevant.
For example, you wouldn’t want to have audio on every slide telling you to ‘click next to progress’.
Best practice tip: Allow your learners to control the pace of the audio or to read a transcript rather than listen – forcing them to move only at the pace of a voice soundtrack can be incredibly frustrating for some learners.
7. Irrelevant photos, illustrations and animations
We frequently see courses using images that have little or no relevance to the content alongside them, or which do not match the look and feel of the eLearning design.
Any imagery should reinforce the message you’re trying to portray on that screen. If the image is not relevant, don’t use it, as learners will waste time trying to work out its relevance.
No matter how cool you think your animation is, if it doesn’t add to the learner experience, you might as well skip it. That includes using random animations, such as bouncing letters, just because it’s an option in your authoring tool. Of course, there is a time and a place for animation in eLearning, check out these examples on the eLearning Heroes Community.
Decide on the visual style and design for your course at the outset and stick to it – if you like clip art, only use clip art images and make sure that they are all a similar style. If you like professional stock images, stick to those.
8. Consistency: Navigation and layout
Often, course designers don’t use the same navigation scheme throughout the eLearning module. Decide where you want to put your main buttons, such as ‘next’, ‘back’, ‘close’ etc. early on, and keep them in one consistent place. Learners should be concentrating on learning, not figuring out your navigation.
A frequent mistake is to include too much variety in slide layout. If you place the text on the left, with an image to the right, stick to this layout throughout to help your learners focus on the content, rather than the slide layout. This provides a sense of unity and helps learners focus on what’s important.
So, we hope that’s given you some food for thought, and has helped you avoid (or overcome) these mistakes we so frequently see in eLearning design. If you want some further guidance on your eLearning design, why not check out Omniplex’s blog ‘Design: More than color schemes and fonts‘ or view the courses we have created.
(Ishihara test answers: 7, 42, 74, 10, 2)