Design mistakes you may be making in your elearning

Any marketing or advertising professional will tell you that packaging is just as important as the product itself. The same can be said for elearning. Although great content is at the centre of every successful elearning course, the first thing learners will notice is the visual design. Poor visual design can be off-putting and have a dramatic impact on learning success. To avoid this, let’s have a look at some of the common design mistakes you may be making in your elearning development and how to overcome them:

Irrelevant images and graphics

Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words; but only if it is relevant. We frequently see courses using images that have little or no relevance to the content alongside them. According to the multimedia principle, it is far superior to use text and graphics together, rather than using text or graphics alone. However, this comes with a caveat, that any imagery used should reinforce the learning. If you include an image that the learner is unable to link with the content, then they may get distracted.

Too much text

Digital learning is a tool of visual communication. The whole point of an elearning course is to help learners digest content, adding value above and beyond just providing a PDF or textbook. Using bulky text blocks leads to , flooding your learners mind with an abundance of information, which could lead to a loss of concentration.

If your course is content heavy, perhaps think about alternatives to text blocks. How could you turn the content into graphs, charts, process flows, interactions, questions, games, infographics, or videos?

Misuse of fonts

Fonts usually fall into the ‘branding’ bucket, and learning designers spend a lot of time making sure they match the overall style of the course and comply to corporate brand guidelines. However, fonts should also be used sensibly to aid learning.

Serif fonts (like Times New Roman) are used in more traditional books and printed documents and have tails at the ends of letters that draw the eye from one to the next.

For the same reason, you should use bold for emphasis, rather than italic, which is much harder to read.

Pro tip: Never use more than two fonts in one elearning slide.

Confusing navigation

Navigation is key when developing an elearning course. Your learners must be able to find their way through the course and modules without any sense of frustration or confusion, no exceptions. It’s important to ensure that all links are active, and that each page can be accessed with ease. You should decide where you want to put your main buttons, such as ‘next’, ‘back’, ‘close’ etc. early on, and keep them in one consistent place. It’s also a good idea to offer navigation instructions at the beginning of a course to create a sense of familiarity for learners.

Not leaving enough white space

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘white space’, it refers to any empty, unmarked space between objects on your slides. It doesn’t necessarily have to be white, it can be any colour, pattern, or even a background image. When there’s a lot of course content, it can be tempting to pack as much as you can into each slide. I’m sure we have all come across a slide that looks like the one below:

That’s a lot of information to take in at once! When slides are too dense, it can be hard for learners to pick out the key messages. A good rule of thumb is to present one idea per slide. Don’t be afraid to leave white space. As you can see in the slide below, it’s much easier to pick out the key information now that the content has been broken up:

Pro tip: It’s better to create more slides with less information than having one slide packed full of info!


The use of colour can have a massive impact on how your course is perceived by your learners. It can evoke emotions in the learners and make them feel connected, or disconnected, to the subject matter. Psychologists have spent years researching the power of colour, and have identified the emotions colours can make individuals feel. For example, red commonly signifies anger, danger and aggression, therefore, it may not be a great choice to start your elearning course with a very red slide.

Plus, 9% of the world population is colour blind, so you’ll also want to be careful while using contrasting hues. Some colour combinations can also make it harder to read text on the screen, as you can see below:

I hope that’s given you some food for thought and will help you avoid these design mistakes that we frequently see in elearning development. If you would like some further guidance, why not check out our blog ‘Four ways to enhance your elearning design’.