While the content itself is important, engaging learners through a digital platform has its own challenges. Think about the factors that make a ‘ good classroom lesson engaging; interactive questions, visual aids, a combination of textbook exercises and group discussions. It’s variety that works, but how do you echo that online? It’s really about keeping the attention of the learner by using prompts and visual aids to make content digestible. You can create variation through design and keep learners on track.
Readability is the first thing to consider. You’ve worked hard to portray an appropriate tone in your writing, so don’t let a bad choice of font express a different message. Times New Roman is formal but reads like a textbook, while Comic Sans is friendly but can make you sound less credible. Both get high scores for readability but they might not be appropriate for your audience. As a general rule of thumb, using a clear, standard serif font for the bulk of your writing is best practice. A sans-serif font can add a playful design without going overboard, but again this depends on the reader.
Understanding typography and how it influences the learner will lead to a better course overall. Font spacing and sizing can have as much impact on readability as the font itself. You can design text in a way that actually aids the intake of information, depending on how it fits on the page and tactical use of headings and subtitles to break up large bodies of text. Being consistent with text design is crucial, but you can use fonts that complement each other to add to the aesthetics of a page.
Colours have more purpose than just making the screen easy on the eye. They influence mood and can be used to give your learners a boost. Blue and green are very calming and are recommended for an optimal learning or working environment. Orange, on the other hand, stimulates the brain and can be a good prompt for activities or exercises. That being said, it’s good to avoid colour clashes and use it sparingly to increase effectiveness.
Imagery is another great way to make content appealing, but overuse can have a negative impact. Using large photos might look good but can distract the reader. Icons are simplified pictures or symbols, much like road traffic signs, that ignite an idea in the reader’s mind. Not only are they good for design, but they have been shown to improve memory. If you see a textbox with an image of a lightbulb for example, you’re already aware that this is a top tip or importance piece of information. You know that even before reading it and will be drawn to that particular content.
There’s a number of ways to make a static page look good just by making a few simple adjustments to text, images, and overall layout. But the more content you have, the more you need to think about interactivity. You could use a carousel design in your course to display a breakdown of each lesson, to include external multimedia or even to replicate flashcards. A high-quality image with interactive captions could be used to better explain the functions of an object, or you could use a process map in the same fashion.
Content design is a broad topic that ranges from words on a page to the top-level architecture of your whole course. There is no single template that will work for everyone, and it will depend really on the audience and the topic in question. However, there are useful tools and tips that can guide you in creating well-designed content that learners will enjoy.