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Looks Count

Do you feel beautiful? When was the last time you got your nails done or had a facial? Do you yearn for a facelift or taking away some of those inches from your waistline? Do you look in the mirror and wish your eyelashes were longer and your face had no left over pimple marks?

You are not alone. Each one of us has a secret desire to look beautiful or handsome as the case may me.

It does prove the point that looks do count. Don't judge a book by its cover or don't judge a person by his/her face is no longer valid. The truth is everyone cares about looks. In a survey conducted in the US, it was discovered that immaculately dressed and beautiful (or handsome) people earned more than their counterparts with the same experience, degree, and knowledge. Are beautiful people always more intelligent? Not necessarily. So what does it prove? Admit or deny, looks do matter, especially so when we talk about eLearning.

Correct, well researched, and appropriately organized instructional design is just one aspect of an effective eLearning course. But the other aspect that draws immediate attention is a good visual design. If instructional design is the soul of your course, visual design is the makeup that draws learners. After all, first impressions do matter.

Creating an appealing or user friendly design does not involve intense graphic skills. All it needs is passion and logic and a sense of color coordination. Have you ever worn a red shirt with brown pants and a green tie? See? This is what I meant.

The first step of creating a good visual design is to follow the user design standards. Make it intuitive and simple. Too many elements on the screen will give a crowded appearance and will make it confusing for users to perform simple tasks. Your design should make it easier for users to use the interface by making educated guesses rather than having to consult the help for every little task they perform.

The other important principle is to use appropriate colors. You can start by learning to use the color wheel. The color wheel is composed of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Primary colors are pure colors and include Red, Yellow, and Blue. Secondary colors are created by mixing equal parts of the primary colors they fall in between. For example, Orange is obtained by mixing equal parts of Red and Yellow. Tertiary colors are obtained by mixing the primary and secondary colors on either side. For example, Red-orange color is obtained by mixing the primary color Red with the secondary color Orange. Learn to use complimentary and secondary colors. Complimentary colors are located opposite to each other on a color wheel. For example, Red and Green are complimentary colors. The type of colors you use should not only look good together but also suit the subject of your course. For example, if you are creating a course for kids, vibrant colors and interface will attract your audience but if you are developing a course on medical diagnosis, you might want to stick to less bright and few colors. At times, you might want to pick a single color and use its different shades and tones. Another trick is to pick a single color as the base and then start with it by picking its complimentary colors. For example, you can pick the main color from the corporate logo of your client and use it as your base or primary color. Selecting the right colors can help increase your course appeal.

You can also use colors to grab attention. For example, if you have used complimentary primary and secondary colors and you want to capture your audience's attention to a specific text or graphic on a page, use the tertiary color.

Apart from a well planned interface design and suitable colors, other rules you should follow are contrast, consistency, grouping and alignment, and proportion.

Contrast is an important element. Always use light colored text on dark backgrounds and vice versa. For example, it is easy to read white text on a red background or green text on a yellow background but it is not easy to read green text on a red or a blue background.

Consistency of graphic elements and fonts is important. Buttons, arrows, and boxes should be of the same style. If you are using 3-D elements, use 3-D elements throughout. Do not mix and match. Also, use the same font consistently for the graphic labels, screen elements, and text. Buttons should be easily identifiable and should have readable text.

Grouping is another important technique to achieve a good screen layout. Group logically related buttons or options together and keep the unrelated buttons or options separate. One way to group related items is to put them in a box or space out different groups. Also take care to align different items. This helps achieve an orderly feeling.

One more point you should take care of is to keep your graphic elements, such as buttons, icons, or images, proportional when you resize them. Do not scale up small images as it may result in pixilation. It's best to leave a screen blank than to put an out of context or a dithered image on a screen.

In a nutshell, while good instruction and content relevance is a primary criterion for evaluating an eLearning course, a crappy design will affect course quality and success. A good visual design and layout is important to develop an effective and engaging learner experience.

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Web site developed and maintained by
Samta Chowdhary.
Interactive visual integration by Samta.
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