How to tell if your digital learning course is too busy

Wise digital learning developers say: use the bag of tricks, but don’t abuse the bag of tricks

Sophisticated authoring tools, such as Articulate Storyline 360, offer developers plenty of opportunities to build incredible courses. But just because we have the option to customise every inch of every slide with colours, fonts, animations, interactions, and graphics, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should.

 

“So how do I know if my slide is too busy?”

Here are a few guidelines that our content developers tend to stick to:

  • No more than two fonts per slide.
  • Use only one animation per slide and do not use flashing text.
  • Don’t be afraid to space out content by adding another slide

So why do we follow these guidelines?

 

Too many fonts, styles and poor spacing

At Cursim we follow four key rules when it comes to typography, to ensure our course do not look too crammed:

  1. Choose one or two fonts that complement each other. Either using the same font in different styles (i.e. Regular and Bold) or two fonts that contrast.
  2. Use capital letters and exclamation marks sparingly. When used deliberately, both tactics can be really effective – but overusing them can make your work look messy and juvenile.
  3. Don’t underline. Again, underlining text can make it look messy and childlike. Use bold or another emphasis to bring your words to life.
  4. Never allow words or letters to overhang. Having words split across two lines is hard for your learner to understand. And if you’re cramming so much text in that you can’t avoid over-hanging words, it’s more than likely your slide is too busy.

 

Too many animations

Once you’ve worked out how to effectively manipulate animation styles, it’s tempting to use them everywhere. Don’t.

Animation should be used very deliberately and carefully throughout your course. A course with too much animation, flashing images, and text flying in from all directions will just distract learners (and is appalling for accessibility – so just don’t do it!)

 

Cramming all content on one slide

For some reason, some people, especially eLearning newbies, try to cram everything on one slide. You don’t need to do this… don’t be scared to spread content through a few slides and allow your learners the experience they deserve.

 

Use the bag of tricks, but don’t abuse the bag of tricks

It seems to go against our nature to not take advantage of the tools that are offered to us, but there is such a thing as an overloaded slide. Sometimes, our content development skills overwhelm our learners and we lose sight of the essence of the training course; the subject matter gets lost in a tangle of mesmerizing sliders, screencasts and fonts. Now I know what our expert instructional designers say, “It’s all about engagement!” and it is, but moderation is king.

 

In summary, if you’re wondering if its too busy, it probably is.

But it’s always good to get some fresh eyes on our courses – sometimes we’re too close to our own slides to see the most obvious issues. And if they are overloaded, just take a step back and prioritise your interactions and aesthetic decisions by spreading them out over a few different slides.