When designing an e-learning course, no matter how good the content of the course it, a poorly designed course can lose it’s effectiveness. Shift outlined these 10 design principles to enhance the user experience. I looked into each of these and analyised each one.
1) Visual hierarchy
This shows the learner in which order to complete tasks. It uses formatting such as headers, change of font colour, coloured blocks and alignment to highlight the important information.
Avoiding clutter in design can help keep a user engaged and prevent them from losing interest and retain information. This might mean omitting less important pieces of information and keeping it to the bare essentials. Breaking information up into lists (such as this list) can help.
Would you keep reading this if all of the page was written in this size font?
I didn’t think so. And neither would your learners. The best font size for use on the web is 16px. Make sure the font size and style is readable on web as well as mobile. To create emphasis, avoid using more than 3 font styles or sizes. Try using bold text or colours instead, however, make sure they are readable on all devices your learners are likely to use.
Using different colours should enhance learner engagement, not be a distraction. For that reason, limit the use of too many colours on one page. Use contrasting colours that compliment each other and a mix of dark and light colours. Use blocks of colour to draw attention to important information.
5) White space
Too much stimulus can hinder retention of learners. Keep plenty of white space on each page to prevent the page from looking cluttered. White space should be placed between content blocks to allow users to flow through the learning material. White space is also helpful for those with dyslexia or attention disorders, as it hightlights important parts and helps them keep focus.
Stick to a colour scheme throughout the course and use similar images throughout. Humans are creatures of habit, so using similar themes throughout will help to maintain attention. Use consistent fonts styles and sizes.
Shift likens alignment to the layout of a supermarket. Related elements should be aligned together in isles (or rows and columns), so that learners can see their relevance. This also helps the learner know which order to consume information and complete tasks.
8) Focal point
A focal point is what should attract the learners attention straight away. Shift says the focal point is the “primary area of interest that attracts learners as soon as they arrive on the page and then draws them gradually into the content presented on the screen”. It should emphasis one learning concept per page. It could be an image, a video, a piece of text or statistics.
As I mentioned before, humans are creatures of habit. They like what they know and they know what they like. Whilst it would be nice to be able to create an all signing all dancing design, the majority of the time, this will hinder learning. You can add bits of creative flair, but for engaging learners in content and enhancing retention, you would be wise to stick with standard design principles.
Following on from familiarity, there’s nothing worse than finishing a task or reading a piece of content and wondering ‘what do I do next?’. Throughout your designs, keep your navigation buttons in the same place and keep the same design. We all hate a pop up with a hard to find ‘x’ button, so don’t make it that hard for your learners.