PrintYou have limited resources within your department at the office. So how do you know the best ways to maximize your design when creating courses?

Overall remember when creating the design of a course,  your design should always support your content not detract from it. Use the visual design to enhance or reinforce the story or the message.

Here are 5 top design mistakes that Instructional Designers often make and how to fix them:

1. Not using a consistent user interface design

Good interface design makes it simple for someone to navigate through your course. If they have to think about how to get from one page to another, they aren’t thinking about what they need to be learning.

A good example of this is the new reverse scrolling that was released with the Mac’s new OS- Lion. They changed the way the mouse was scrolling to match the way we use it on the ipad/iphone, etc. The problem was that it was opposite from the way that we used it prior to this new release. It caused all sorts of headache as you wanted to scroll up and actually scrolled down the page. This is something that you never really noticed before because you were used to it and it did what you expected.

Remember to follow these basic guidelines when creating your course navigation and interface:

a. Provide contrast between navigational elements on the screen from the content

b. Group navigational elements into one area

c. Use color and graphics predictably, consistently and simply

d. Create a predictable pattern for learners from one course to another

e. Avoid overall visual clutter

2. Not using appropriate images/graphics

Use the appropriate images for your audience and for your content. Your images and graphics should match and help to increase transfer of learning by imitating real life. By using images and graphics that reinforce the message that you are trying to deliver, you help put the learner in the appropriate context to help them visualize/simulate the real world situation. The biggest rule that I have for this one is to never,  I repeat, NEVER use clip art without first assessing if it fits your content. There is a reason that it is free. There are times when using clip art is appropriate but not as a general rule. Also, avoid too much on the screen at one time. Simplicity is king in this situation. If the image isn’t needed to support the content, leave it off.

3. Not checking alignment and position screen to screen

This is one of the easiest way to increase the professionalism of your courses. Use your align tool and the position tool to ensure that your images that run across pages are in the same position (x,y value). You should not go to the next page and have an image slide over, even by a pixel. This is an easy one but I have worked with countless professionals that miss this simple mistake. 

4. Inconsistent font type and sizing

Pick one or two fonts that match the style of your content and go with those. Too much variation distracts from the main content of your couse. Remember, all visual elements should support your content or message not detract from it. And NEVER use Comic Sans. I don’t care how cute it is – don’t use it. EVER.

5. Putting too much content on a page

Less is more when someone is in a learning mode. Don’t just do an information dump and assume that everyone will read everything you put on the screen; even if it is separated by bullet points. Focus on what the learner needs to do not what they need to know and you will likely find yourself back on the right track. If this is your tendency, you may benefit from checking to see that you only have one central idea or objective per slide. By looking at your content this way, it will help you to not only build the story slide by slide but also give you an opportunity to see how you can take that information and turn it into a visually appealing way to convey the same message.

Join the conversation, what other design mistakes have you seen?