Every type of content has to follow some conventions in order to meet the purpose of its creation; that is, to be understood in a sea of multiple disruptive factors, such as noise for spoken messages or content design for written forms.
As we all know, online content is ubiquitous nowadays and it has its own set of rules — different than those for printed or other types of design — that ensure it is well received and understood.
When creating online courses, the pressure to abide by the rules of online content is even greater since you offer learning content.
3 Online design rules to abide by when creating your course
When you choose to offer the public your online course, you take on a huge responsibility. You have to deliver genuine and reliable content that will keep your learners engaged and to do that you have to follow some rules.
It’s up to you as an online course designer to decide how to go about each of these: as strict rules or rather as guidelines.
Here are three:
Pay attention to how your words look in a lesson
Including blocks of text in your course without a clear structure makes it hard for learners to follow and it can demotivate them. So, besides layering your content using titles and subtitles, you also need to keep it concise.
When you include presentations, remember that learners need clear and relevant information, so keep slides simple and short. You can use bullet points to integrate the main aspects of a lesson.
Typography is also an aspect not to be taken lightly when writing an online course. Your text should be easy to read for more than a minute or two. Try to create patterns that mix fonts, but which don’t make it hard for the student to actually read your text. If it’s tiring, it won’t be read.
Pairing fonts from the same family like serif or sans serif would be easier to read. Pick one for titles and another one for the rest of the text. There are so many fonts to choose from.
Either way, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment and spy for the perfect combination whenever you find yourself reading something online that you enjoy.
PRO tip: Choose fonts that read well on any type of screen
To ensure your text design does not defeat its purpose, which is to inform, it’s better to resist the temptation to use too many fonts and to vary between different types for each new module.
Consistency is key and the fonts you do choose have to look good on any device. To have a successful course you need to consider all user types and offer the best online learning experience on any type of screen.
Choose colors wisely
Color is the one thing most of us enjoy seeing, especially when we learn. It gives us a positive vibe and it sets the mood for learning. The easiest way to choose the appropriate scheme color is to use the default choices you have on the LMS platform you use or add a color picker extension to your browser. You can find plenty of information online on how to mix colors and what apps to use.
If you already have an established brand it’s best to use the same colors you have on your logo to create a feeling of consistency and make the course you sell visually in-sync with your other products.
The colors you choose make your signature recognizable everywhere. You only need a dark color and a light one to show contrast, but also a shade that compliments the important information you want to emphasize.
PRO tip: have one contrasting color
Less is more when it comes to contrast, too. Keep it simple! Use for most of the text a neutral color and choose a statement color for important parts of your course, like subheadings, highlighted words, links, bullets in lists, and so on. The last color should be the background color. Choose a light one that goes with the dark color of the text, but avoid the combination of pure colors and better use hues, tints, and shades that are awesome variations.
Include the right visuals
Images are the best way to complete a course if they really represent it. Don’t just pick a photo because you like it if it’s not consistent with the topic of your text or you risk having the opposite effect of what you initially wanted.
Moreover, consider your target audience and their culture when making the choice; it’s courteous from your part to include their background when you want them to learn your content.
There are a lot of free stock photo sites with intuitive user interfaces that facilitate visual content creation, from images to infographics, to pie charts and other elements. Also, don’t forget about copyright and giving credit to authors even when the resources are free.
Read more: What you need to know about copyright for online courses
PRO tip: never compromise on image quality
To complete your course, beside fonts and colors, you need the best visuals to match it. Although there are plenty of free visual resources online, not all of them have the best quality. So, to make sure you don’t do a disservice to your course, you should also consider professionally designed photos that look the same on any device. However, these images may come with a cost. Invest confidence and money only in photos that tell their own story and compliment your course rather than just clutter the screen.
Online courses offer the alternative of learning on the go. But with everyone in a hurry, you have to do your best to keep your students interested and engaged with your content.
Regardless of how well-written the text in your online course is, if it is not well-presented, it won’t be read all the way — let alone learned. So make sure you use the right fonts, colors and visuals that compliment your content and highlight its value.
Next time we’ll explore three more important factors to consider when designing your online course, which will complete the circle of guidelines to follow in this journey! So stay tuned!