Online courses are now more than ever an accessible way of learning. However, it’s not all about the content — the knowledge you sell — but also about how you present it. From font types to font sizes, from color to visuals, every single aspect counts in offering the best online learning experience there is.
Although you may choose to break the rules or experiment with different patterns, having the guidelines in mind makes it easier for you to have a well-designed online course.
Last time we explored how words should look in a lesson, what role colors play, and how you can integrate visuals in your online course to help your student stay focused and navigate easier through it.
3 More design rules for your online course
Let’s continue our journey through online design rules with other three aspects to consider in the quest for the perfect template.
Be careful when creating the layout of a learning module
Every learning material you include in your course has to reach the student without any barrier. More often than not, learners lose focus easily online and we need to help them navigate through our course as smoothly as possible.
That’s why consistency is one of the most important aspects to consider when creating an online course. It facilitates retention and keeps learners engaged with the learning material because they get used to a certain pattern and can learn the information without getting distracted.
In general, people scan a page from top to bottom and left to right. Taking this into account, important content should be placed at the top while any other relevant points ought to be somewhere to the right.
The way you choose to lay out your course can make the difference between showing up and dropping out. Choose a Z-layout to make your message clear and easy to follow.
PRO tip: Create a visual hierarchy
Written text is plain and hard to read if you just place it on your course page. Personalize it by playing with fonts, sizes, italics, and colors. Make your title stand out compared to the rest of the content by choosing a font and a size that makes it visible. Keep the same font and a smaller size for the subtitles. This way you create a pattern that structures your page.
If you include quotes, use at least one feature to distinguish it from the text body by using italics or colors. When using images, apply the same features to the captions: italics, shades, smaller font. Remember to emphasize some words or phrases using bold or italic features.
All these help you create a visual hierarchy that makes your content accessible and clear.
Keep everything balanced
As a course creator, your main purpose is to deliver learning material that is easy to follow and is consistent visually throughout the entire course. While justify alignment seems neat, it’s tough to read. You’d better choose the left alignment (or the right one for languages like Hebrew and Arabic) since this is how people read in general. The central alignment may only be needed in titles if you really must.
Visual elements also need to be aligned, again in a consistent manner, but you are free to place them where you want on the page.
Revise the course with the eye of a student. If you have a chaotic structure with modules organized differently, with various color combinations, some with or without images, you will overwhelm your learners and they will lose focus of what’s important.
PRO tip: embrace white space
White space, or blank space, may be scary since it may be considered useless. But when you want to single out an idea you can successfully leave some blank space all around the text you want to emphasize to make it stand out.
Also, bigger space lining for your text is eye comforting especially on smaller devices. What's more, paragraphs are easy to follow if you leave a small space between them and it gives readers a chance to digest what they have learned. Use a maximum 1,2 space lining to let your text breathe.
Always be consistent
Throughout an entire course keep the same layout design, with the same formatting for your text, quotes, images captions, and the same fonts and sizes. Include photos of the same dimensions and align them in the same part of your page. Don't change your color scheme in the middle of your course.
This is what consistency is all about. And it has its benefits as well. First, your learners stay focused and motivated all the way because it's easier to navigate through consistent design, and second, they become familiar with the layout of your content and they will recognize your course signature anywhere.
PRO tip: save course templates for later use
Once you find the perfect balance between every aspect of your course design mentioned so far, save it as a template for your future courses.
You can stick to it entirely or experiment with some changes. But whatever you do, don't make any changes once you've started the course. Stick with your choices from start to finish.
Online course design guidelines offer you a red line to follow to facilitate the message decoding process. Besides offering interesting, accurate, and reliable content, you should also make the learning experience easy and enjoyable by allowing your students to navigate through consistent design, recognizable anywhere, anytime, in the best way possible.