You don’t need to be a professional graphic designer to know that yellow text on a white background is a no-no, or that the bright neon orange background is not so easy on the eyes.
However, there are some more subtle design faux-pas that not everyone is consciously aware of. Here’s a look at a few of them, and some tips on how to avoid making those mistakes in your own e-learning designs.
White space (also known as negative space) is the unmarked or unused space on a slide/screen/layout. White space is a very important design element and it should be balanced with the objects on the slide. In other words, you should aim to have 50% white space on every slide. Claustrophobic slides happen when there isn’t enough white space and the objects on the slide are too close together, touching each other or touching the edges of the slides. Here’s an example of a claustrophobic slide:
The elements on the slide are crowded and too close. It just feels a bit too “tight”. The fix: add some white space! Here is the same slide, with all the same elements but with proper spacing around them.
Ahhh! Now there’s some breathing room. That’s what white space does. It frames all the elements and provides balance.
Why do you want your headlines to stand out? Because they introduce the slide and let the learners know what they are about to look at. Whispering headlines fail to attract attention, and are not easily distinguished from the text that they introduce. Here’s an example:
Notice that the headline doesn’t really stand out from the text that comes after it. Headlines should be significantly larger than the text that follows. Here is the same example, except this time the headline is bolded and a larger font size:
That helps a bit, but it’s still not really popping as much as it should. A few other techniques you can use to make your headlines stand out: make the text bolder, change the color or change the font. Here’s our same example once more, but this time the headline has a different font color and typeface.
See how much our headline pops now? Your eyes go right to the headline and right away you know what this slide is all about (or at least you would if you spoke Latin!).
When you’re using more than one type of font in your e-learning design choose contrasting fonts. In other words, avoid mixing fonts that have a similar look-and-feel (whether it be in the size or weight of the type). Here’s an e-learning slide that uses similar typefaces:
It feels a little heavy doesn’t it? The fonts used are too similar, too close to the same size, and too chunky and heavy. They compete for attention and don’t balance each other out. As we looked at in the previous example, your headline should be what grabs attention first. Here’s the same slide, but now I have switched one of the fonts to be a “lighter” style and I’ve adjusted the size of the text.
There’s much more of a balance between the two fonts in the second example.
These are just a few common design mistakes that you can avoid making in your designs. Some of these “mistakes” are very subtle, and might only be caught by a very detail-oriented eye. That being said, it’s those little details that can make a design that much more pleasing to look at. I’ll follow-up with another post about common design mistakes in a few weeks, so stay tuned!