Have you ever bought something just because it had a nice packaging? Maybe you didn't really need it, nor it offered much value to you; you just found the packaging simply irresistible. There's no reason to feel bad. Everyone likes beautiful things. Our human brain is wired to give priority to visually appealing, eye-catching things over less than beautiful ones. We all have a weakness for beauty. This stands true in all sorts of situations, from choosing our friends to scanning a website — or an online course for that matter.
Your business is to create the best possible courses for the people who want to learn from you. You want them to absorb every bit of information you include in each lesson. But you must always remember that people will always have a weakness for things that come in the most beautiful packaging. When creating your course, don't focus just on the educational part of it, but put some work into making is visually appealing as well. You need to add a nice packaging to it.
INDIE White paper: How to make your online courses look amazing
5 Tips on how to create eye-catching online courses
Wrapping your course materials in a nice visual way is not that hard, and shouldn’t take that much time. Beauty lies in the smallest of details. A great course design will support your message in many subtle ways. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Create a visual hierarchy
This is mostly about text, but it applies to other elements of your course as well. The title should stand out the most compared to all other elements on the page as it is the first thing people see, which gives the main picture of the course. Subtitles should also stand out, but not as much. The purpose is to make them visible enough to be read as a smaller part of the title.
The text in a quote should have at least one distinguished characteristic for the reader to be able to see clearly the new type of content, and so should captions for images and graphics. This will differentiate the format of the main content from the rest.
The easiest way to create a visual hierarchy is through the use of various fonts and font-sizes. Pick a maximum of three different fonts (one for regular text, one for elements that need to stand out and a third one for Quotes if necessary). You can also use just one font and create differences of importance for various text elements through font size, bold keywords or italics.
Last but not least, the links that you use should be visible and you can do this by inserting colored links. For specific parts of your course you can also add list bullets to make it easier for the reader to follow the basics.
Choose images and graphics carefully
Getting the right image for an online course page can be challenging. If a picture is really worth a thousand words, you need to make sure it says the right ones. A very good course can be easily ruined by the wrong pick of images and visual elements.
Choose images that are relevant to the context of the course. Learners have to be attracted to them and they should depict something meaningful. If there are people in them, your audience should relate to them. If your course is about handmade soaps, then the pictures need to include soaps in various stages of making and not people in business suits.
Don't forget about the copyright laws when using images. The easiest way to do this is to use websites that provide free access to numerous images, like Free Images, Pexels or Pixabay. Free image resources abound, but it does take time to find the perfect ones for your course.
If you can't find the perfect one, just create it. There are plenty of online resources that can support you in doing that. To give just one example, try out Canva. Both expert designers and beginners absolutely love it. Also, their blog is absolutely brilliant — you can learn so much more than great design from there.
Align your elements
If the elements on the page of your course are aligned correctly, the users can focus on what's important. They'll follow the visual hierarchy you carefully created instead of dwelling too much on an out-of-place element.
Most of the text should be aligned to the left, as this type of alignment is the easiest to follow for most people. Unless, of course, you and your audience use a language that is standardly written right-to-left (like Arabic), in which case the right alignment makes more sense.
But if your audience is reading from left-to-right, there’s really no need to use any other type of alignment for the majority of the text. Both justified and central cause a strain for the eyes and make it harder to follow the text.
The only element that should be aligned on the center is the title. Images, videos and other graphical items can also be central aligned, but not necessarily. The most important thing here is to be consistent in how you choose to align them.
Contrast can be your best friend when designing your online courses. But contrast can also be your worst enemy. Be careful of what colors you choose, and remember: less is more. Try to pick no more than three colors and remember that you could get a nice result by using only two.
The basis of your design should have a background color and a neutral color. Your best bet would be a light background and a dark neutral. You could swap these, but you really need to know what you’re doing in this case. The rule is that there needs to be contrast between these colors, so that users can read the text easily.
If you want to take things a step further, then the third color should stand out on the page. You’d use this particular color when you want to highlight something important on the page, like links, keywords, buttons, list bullets, and so on. Just don’t overuse it.
Lastly, it's better to avoid the combination of pure colors. There are so many hues, tints, and shades for each color that it’s impossible not to find the perfect color contrast for your online course.
Feel free to experiment with your options in either of the above categories. Rules are meant to be broken, after all. By trying out new things in terms of graphic design you’ll eventually form your particular style. But you need to remember to not experiment within a course.
Each element, each page, and each lesson need to be consistent in terms of visual cues throughout the entire course. You can do this by sticking to the same font pair, same formatting and same color scheme.
What’s more, in case you use images and graphics in each lesson, make sure to crop your imagery to the same dimensions (or if you create it, set the same dimensions), align them on the same part of the page or create a pattern that you’ll use throughout the course.
When you're pleased with how a lesson looks, transform the visual elements into templates, so that you can use them later. Each course should have a consistent design.
Your online course is your business card. Make sure it is visually appealing to your audience. Your learners need a clear design, with a consistent pattern and a well-structured content. They have to be able to ‘move’ freely and smoothly through the modules and lessons of the course. By sticking to the steps mentioned above you will not only have a beautiful course outlook, but also a welcoming design that your learners will love.
INDIE Guide: Creating beautiful online courses using INDIE