10 Simple E-Learning Design Tips

10-design-principles-jpgThere is a thin line between creating elearning that is effective and creating a course that misses the mark.  Many instructional designers go through great lengths to create engaging, flashy elearning modules, but end up doing more bad than good.  The thing is, sometimes the “flashy” items don’t always translate to best practice design principles.

Many of the bigger companies out there really don’t want the “glitz and glamour”, they just want something that works. I can recall working for an international conglomerate and all they wanted (initially) were standard PowerPoint slides for their elearning.  They did not want any distractions taking away form the content, and understandably so, given that the course content was for thousands of employees.

Even if your training has to be confined to just simple PowerPoint slides, you can still use best-practice design principles in your course creation.  The ten items below should be used as a starting block for your training. In fact, even if you managed to satisfy half of these elements, you are already well ahead of other instructional designers out there.

10 Elearning Design Tips

1. Guide the Viewer’s Eye: Don’t just splatter images and text together, guide the user through the content on the screen.

2. Control the Clutter: Too much text is just as bad as too many images. Avoid clutter, provide ample rooms for margins, and be consistent.

3. Shorten Columns: Long columns are tiring on the eye.

4. Use White Space Appropriately: Easily accomplished by setting healthy margins, and ample space between text and images.

5. Smart Font Choices: Use one font for titles, and another for the material. Try to stay within the same font family.

6. Keep it Consistent: Be it font, spacing, images, effects – be consistent within the course, and across multiple courses under the same umbrella.

7. Watch Alignment: Key for guiding the eye, providing proper spacing, and avoiding clutter.

8. Importance Dictates Position: The more important items need to stand-out and cannot be hidden. Avoid using obnoxious red font for important items.

9. Simple Navigation: Course navigation should be smooth and intuitive.

10. Use Contrasting Colors: A design basic, but it never hurts to have a reminder.


Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Let's Talk! | Twitter

5 Responses

  1. Thank you Justin
    Very interesting. .almost I follow clutter and colours I will try to review and practice ..let you know and may have a look if you don’t mind
    E Johali

  2. What is the specific justification for not using “obnoxious” red font besides having a color-blind audience?

    1. Hi Melissa-
      Thanks for the note. The colorblind piece is actually a main component since most formal elearning programs require some sort of conformity to color pallets. Beyond that, red font is overplayed and loses its impact.

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