A few weeks ago, I wrote about "10 Easy Ways to Improve the Visual Design of Your eLearning." Now let’s take a look at three visual design strategies that improve the user experience.

1. Use white space well

The Interaction Design Foundation states: White space is our friend.
In order to process what we are seeing and consuming, our eyes and brains need to rest.

Note: White space doesn’t actually have to be white, although it often is. The idea is to open up the visual design to allow the eyes to easily focus on what it intended (key learning) and the brain to encode it into short-term memory.

Find inspiration in website design; these sites in particular use white space effectively:

Keys to success include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Frame the key learning item by adding space all the way around
  • Eliminate heavy and/or thick borders from your slides
  • Allow learners to control placement or visibility of the seek bar, volume controls, and navigation menus
  • Zoom in, creatively crop, and place images
  • Open up your text by:
    • Reducing line length
    • Using fewer words
    • Fitting text into a specifically-sized text box
    • Using bold and italics sparingly
    • Setting line spacing at 1.5 or 2.0

Our eyes and brains work really hard all day, every day. Let’s give them a break!

Adding white space can improve retention of the learning. Like our eyes, our brains need an opportunity to focus. Plan periodic reflection activities and open space. In design, this means building content with low use of images and audio into your eLearning.

Learn more from these resources:

2. Plan to be accessible

Plan your visual design to be as accessible as possible, from the beginning. It is a myth that if a learner doesn’t self-identify, then no accommodations need to be made to produce more accessible learning content.

Let’s debunk this myth: People are not required to self-identify. It is also true that many of us wear corrective lenses to see better, and some put off getting tested and purchasing corrective lenses for far too long. Hearing deficits may go untested and unverified, but they exist. Manual dexterity exists in many forms and people usually just live with limitations. Sight deficits in the form of color blindness are common.

Need more myth busters? Let’s add undiagnosed illness, aging, working in a noisy environment, computer equipment issues, dyslexia, and other forms of what are often referred to as learning disabilities.

Improved accessibility means improved usability—and therefore better UX—for all learners. Try these three tips to get moving in the right direction:

  • Use high-contrast color schemes (color and contrast how-to)
  • Update/correct Alt Text to ensure that images are tagged appropriately
  • Ensure that text is readable by selecting font(s), styles applied, and placement with intention (font how-to)

Additional reading:

3. Design for inclusivity

Designing eLearning to be inclusive can be tricky, as the word means different things to different people. How do you define “inclusive”? How might your coworkers define it?

According to Vocabulary.com, "Inclusive is an adjective with several meanings: It can be used to describe something that's broad or extensive, such as [a] thorough, inclusive research project. Or it describes a group that's particularly welcoming to all kinds of people."

It would be difficult to craft inclusive eLearning content without aligning to a set of standards and establishing guidance. This begins with knowing your audience. (Bet you’ve heard or read this one before!) And by audience, we mean your learner population.

If it has been a while since intentional work was done to actually know who your learners are, then it is time to get on that. Consider completing learner persona maps (they may also be referred to as empathy maps) for each segment or group. These maps are crafted to address the people who will be consuming the learning content—and why. Be sure to distribute this information to the learning development team.

To be more inclusive with your visual design, apply what you learn about your learning population to the learning content you craft.

While not visual design per se, a few more suggestions can increase inclusivity in your learning content:

  • Check your pronouns. It makes sense to personalize the learning through the use of “you” as often as possible. Use first names, too. To avoid gendered pronouns (he, she), use “they,” and use plural forms when possible.
  • Avoid obviously binary language and images; opt for a gender-neutral solution instead.
  • Write content that will be easily understood and retained by members of your audience (reading score and readability how-to).

Visual design drives eLearning effectiveness

There is a lot to consider when crafting the visual design of eLearning. Learn more in the all-day workshop I am presenting with Tracy Parish, “Visual Design for L&D,” at the DevLearn 2019 Conference & Expo. The workshop is October 21, and DevLearn is October 23–25, all in Las Vegas. Discover practical strategies and real-world examples that will help you create better visual designs for your eLearning.