Sometimes working in the eLearning field means re-working existing courses. Say a client comes to you with a course they’ve been using for years, and they want you to breathe some new life into it.

Seems like no big deal, right?

But when you take a look at the course, you realize that you’ve got a lot of work to do. The content is fine, but the design of the course is atrocious. Not only is it hard to read, but the graphics look like clip art, the typography choices are laughable, and the images are pixelated beyond recognition.

What do you do?

Being the conscientious designer you are, you don’t want to slap on a “pretty face” and send the course back out into the wild. Now that you’re involved, you know you need to make the course better. So, the only way to fix poor eLearning design is to take it one element at a time.

Start with Text

Find places where text is hard to read, and change size and color to make it more legible. Maybe it needs a different background or a font change, too. From there, you can style the typography throughout the course. Instead of using 15 different fonts throughout, switch everything to 1-2 easily legible fonts that maintain consistency throughout.

While you’re at it, this is a great chance to evaluate how much of that text is really needed on the screen. We’ve all seen instances where designers use PowerPoint (or another tool) as if it’s Microsoft Word. No presentation or eLearning course should have paragraphs of text onscreen. Take this opportunity to not just make things easier to read, but to find more creative ways to present the information so there’s less reading to do in the first place.

Fix the Images

If the images and graphics in the course are sub-par, see how you can swap out old images for new, high-resolution options. This part is fairly easy if you have a stock photo subscription. Then, design (or work with a graphic designer) to de-clutter and simplify course screens with only relevant, clean imagery that add to the course without being distracting. Don’t be afraid of leveraging your whitespace—let concepts breathe.

Again, here’s an opportunity to evaluate the relevance of the imagery used. All too often weak designers use ornamental graphics as a crutch to fill space. All the images you use should be with a purpose to further the learning. If it’s just there to “look pretty” then there’s probably something better you could be doing.

Define the Color Scheme

We’ve talked before about the importance of color in eLearning. Think about your general color palette for the course, and then consider grouping topics by color, as this has been proven effective as a means of teaching different concepts. If you’re so compelled, you can also tie in company branding with the course for an even more professional and polished look.

Edit for Cohesiveness

Now it’s time for you to go back through the course and make sure you’ve kept the design elements consistent. Be sure that all headers, body text, and navigation tools look the same on all screens. Also, be sure that your links are working and that navigation is fully functional.

Content Before Cosmetics

All of the above presumes the content and the educational approach are reasonably sound, but in reality that needs to be the first evaluation. If the course is poorly presented, has gaps in the content, or doesn’t follow modern instructional design principles, then no amount of lipstick is going to save it.

If you’ve been tasked with updating a course, you owe it to the stakeholder to assess not just the visual, but the educational effectiveness as well. A course that is broken educationally might not be worth the time and money to freshen up without addressing the instructional problems as well. Take this opportunity to assess the entire course and make informed decisions about how best to fix it.

Poor eLearning Design? No Problem.

Now that you know how to fix poor eLearning design, your process can be a breeze. Rather than being completely overwhelmed by the work you have ahead of you, taking this step-by-step strategy means that it’s simply a matter of crossing fixes off your list.

Interested in reading more about graphic design in eLearning? Check out our eight-part series.