eLearning Design – 38 Slide Design Tips from the Pros

eLearning Slide Design Tips

When your eLearning slides look great, viewer engagement increases, your instructional voice is enhanced, and you hear “I love it!” more often.

But for those of us who aren’t trained designers, slides can be a struggle.

Early in my eLearning development career, I always felt a little cringe-y about my slide designs… It was just embarassing to feel like I couldn’t make good-looking slides.

Now I realize that there are some easy tricks-of-the trade that jump start great design. Recently I got curious to learn what the experts might name as their own jump starts.

So I asked a bunch of them one simple question:

What’s your #1 tip for designing a great eLearning slide?

And their responses are golden!

Here’s a quick video summary of all the tips…

…and you can read the full tips just below!

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Michael Allen - Don't think of elearning as a presentation. Make it an instructive conversation with the learner.

Don’t think of elearning as a presentation. Make it an instructive conversation with the learner.

Slides? I don’t think of elearning in terms of slides (which are tools of presentations) but more in terms of events to engage and stimulate thinking. So design elearning as a conversation with the learner. eLearning should be a good listener, responding to learners as their skills falter and grow. Don’t throw slides at learners, one after the other. Yawn. They don’t stick.

Michael Allen

eLearning Slide Design Tip by France Hernandez - Be bold and confident with your slide design. Good design helps sell the learning.

Be bold and confident with your slide design. Good design helps sell the learning.

When you’re considering your design approach, look around for examples of designs that will really work for your project. Analyze what’s making these work — color, fonts, textures, shadows? what are the elements that make the statement? — and incorporate that boldly into your slide designs. Work the elements until they work for you and your project.

France Hernandez

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Brooke Schepker - Everything on the slide "speaks" to learners. Figure out the key point on each slide, and design visuals to portray it.

Everything on the slide “speaks” to learners. Figure out the key point on each slide, and design visuals to portray it.

Remember that everything you put on the slide “speaks” to learners so choose what you allow to speak for your content wisely. Figure out what the key point is (or the “must know” portion of that piece of content) and design visuals that portray that key point. Then, do the same for the next slide and the next and the next.

Brooke Schepker

eLearning Slide Design Tip byJackie Van Nice - Control text, images, animations, audio, or activities so the learner is never distracted from where you want their attention.

Control text, images, animations, audio, or activities so the learner is never distracted from where you want their attention.

When I design an eLearning slide I try to stay hyper-aware of the learner’s focus. Where do I want their attention right now? The script should be focused and clearly and concisely speak to its audience, of course, and the visuals and activities need to support it and do the same. My aim is to control the text, images, animations, audio, and/or activities so that the learner is never distracted from exactly where I want their attention in each moment. If I’m doing my job well, the learner should find being able to focus and take in key information both effortless and enjoyable.

Jackie Van Nice

Don’t just deliver content: Ask important questions and offer activities. Deep processing is critical for deeper learning.

Don’t just deliver content. Also ask important questions and offer activities. (For example, “What is wrong with this multiple-choice question?”) Deep processing is critical for deeper learning and content doesn’t go far enough.

Patti Shank, PhD

eLearning Slide Design Tip byTim Slade - Use your slides to help your learners see what you're trying to say.

Use your slides to help your learners see what you’re trying to say.

Your slides are a tool for visual communications. Never storyboard anything you can visually communicate. Use your slides to help your learners see what you’re trying to say.

Tim Slade

eLearning Slide Design Tip byRichard Watson - Every element on the slide engages the learner and moves them towards achieving the learning objective

Every element on the slide engages the learner and moves them towards achieving the learning objective

Repetition, contrast, alignment, font selection, and color all play an important role in making a slide look professional. But, what makes a great eLearning slide is that each element on the slide engages the learner and moves them towards achieving the learning objective.

Richard Watson

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Sam Rogers - Use words learners use, not SMEs. Show things learners understand, not IDs.

Use words learners use, not SMEs. Show things learners understand, not IDs.

Use words Learners use, not SMEs. Show things Learners understand, not IDs. Give Learners experiences that help them feel in control, then rigorously exercise their judgement. We exist to help our organization make sense to the people in it, not to look smarter than they are.

Sam Rogers

Less is more on-screen.

If you have to instruct learners on how to navigate a slide, you’re doing it wrong. Less is more on-screen. Keep it simple and clean.

Patti Bryant

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Linda Lorenzetti - Save examples of great design that you see and use it the next time you are stumped.

Save examples of great design that you see and use it the next time you are stumped.

Learn from Great Design
How do you layout your eLearning content so that it is attractive and will aid in understanding concepts?

Great design is all around us, so why not harness what is already there? Notice the design of print ads, billboards, SlideShare presentations, Pinterest pins, design and software blogs, websites and books. How are fonts combined, what shapes are used, how are images used? If something you like will translate well into eLearning, take a photo of it, save it in a file and use it to inspire you when you’re stumped on your next project.

Linda Lorenzetti

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Christy Tucker - Align objects to guidelines to create a unified look across multiple slides.

Align objects to guidelines to create a unified look across multiple slides.

Use guidelines to divide the screen, and then align objects to those guidelines. For example, you might have a guideline near the top for headers, one at the bottom for buttons, and one 30% from the left for callouts. You can use those same guidelines for other types of objects throughout your elearning. This helps create a unified look across multiple slides.

Christy Tucker

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Julie Dirksen - Say "So for example..." as much as possible -- you can also have slide template to support it.

Say “So for example…” as much as possible — you can also have slide template to support it.

My number one presentation tip is to find as many ways to add “So, for example…” to your presentations as possible. A lot of presentations have good ideas, but not enough examples of how to apply those ideas. You can even create an “example” template slide to make it easier. Also, see if you can get some of those examples from your audience — I start most presentations with the question “What problems are you trying to solve related to this topic?” and you can refer back to the examples of specific audience problems as you present.

Julie Dirksen

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Jacqueline Hutchinson - Design your content so it works well for all devices, then test thoroughly.

Design your content so it works well for all devices, then test thoroughly.

Design your interactive page content so that it works well for all devices, and test it with the devices you know your audience is using. More people are accessing content with smart devices, so when you design your slide content, keep that in mind. It will help you avoid “it’s not working” or issues accessing layers or linked information. Don’t design for one mode of delivery unless you know it’s the only mode being used.

Jacqueline Hutchinson

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Phil Mayor - Avoid the templates and defaults setting. Make it visual and tell a story!

Avoid the templates and defaults setting. Make it visual and tell a story!

Avoid using any of the built-in templates and change default setting (i.e. fonts, colours) The templates are full of design cliches and chances are someone has seen it before. Using something that you have developed yourself will have more impact.

One example of why changing the default setup is important is the default button colour in Storyline, I would guess that 70% of people never change that.

Ideally, as a designer you want to differentiate your work from other developers, we can do that by creating a visual language for our courses. As well as being consistent with fonts, font size, colours, and using high quality imagery.

One caveat, If you do have design block, you can use a template as a starting point, However, make it your own. Change the fonts, make it visual, avoid using bullet points, set the colour scheme and tell a story.

If you are not a developer look to the web for inspiration, web designers are doing amazing things with design work and we can copy that design aesthetic into our courses.

Phil Mayor

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Bruce Graham - Be brief with your messaging, brief but clear. Check that you have done so with the target audience.

Be brief with your messaging, brief but clear. Check that you have done so with the target audience.

Make sure that the message you are trying to convey is clear! Use enough words to do that, no less, no more. Once you have crafted your messages/course, check it out with a few people to see if THEY think it works, as your perception of “clarity” and “the message” may be different. Only use visuals if they add to the message, random “nice” visuals detract.

Bruce Graham

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Mike Taylor - Clean and focused

Clean and focused

Keep your slides clean and focused with plenty of white space and only make one point per slide. The slides are free, so use as many as you need!

Mike Taylor

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Alexander Salas - Incite action in learners through the activation of previous knowledge. Help learners solve problems, not read a fancy e-book

Incite action in learners through the activation of previous knowledge. Help learners solve problems, not read a fancy e-book

Don’t use slides to deliver knowledge content, instead use them to incite action in learners through the activation of previous knowledge. Embed the content on downloadable PDFs and help learners solve problems through purposeful eLearning interactions. We learn best when we are engaged through relevant problem-solving experiences.

Alexander Salas

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Cammy Bean - Recipe for a bored and glazed out learner? Cram LOTS and LOTS of words onto a slide.

Recipe for a bored and glazed out learner? Cram LOTS and LOTS of words onto a slide.

Recipe for a bored and glazed out learner? Cram LOTS and LOTS of words onto a slide. For better eLearning, spread it out (think more slides with fewer words).

Cammy Bean

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Kevin Thorn - Visuals should lift up the content as opposed to the content supporting the visuals.

Visuals should lift up the content as opposed to the content supporting the visuals.

Vision is the first of our senses that is stimulated when first viewing and elearning slide. Understanding that means to visualize the message with good visual design and few if no onscreen text. Obviously, content dictates but if we start with the rule of visual design first, the rest will fall into place.

Kevin Thorn

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Clark Quinn - Use an image to represent a concept, sparking curiosity.

Use an image to represent a concept, sparking curiosity.

No text! Use an image or a diagram. (And for diagrams, build them with one step per slide). Instead of bullet points, use an image to convey the concept. That opens audiences up to an idea without them knowing what exactly how it’ll be used. I maintain that the curiosity created sparks retention.

Clark Quinn

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Will Thalheimer - Guide learners' attention by using slide elements wisely!!

Guide learners’ attention by using slide elements wisely!!

“When designing an elearning slide (or any slide), we must align our design with our audience’s human cognitive machinery. People always frenetically scan their visual environment. It’s normal. It’s natural. As designers, we must guide learners’ attention. We should (1) avoid distracting elements (avoiding logos and decorative branding), (2) use white space to make elements pop to salience, (3) show elements one at a time, (4) keep slide elements to a minimum, (5) maximize the usable screen geography, and (6) avoid bullet points, transforming lists into something else (like objects).”

Will Thalheimer

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Tracy Parish - Ensure the font size is appropriate for the viewing audience; whether they are at the front/back of the room, or on a device.

Ensure the font size is appropriate for the viewing audience; whether they are at the front/back of the room, or on a device.

Make sure you don’t have too much text on the slide. Keep it brief and concise and if you need to use more than one slide to convey the message, then that’s okay. Also, make sure that the font you use is appropriate for the room (or device) you are presenting in. Viewers at the back of the room should be able to read the slide just as easily as those at the front.

Tracy Parish

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Ron Price - Would this content be better told or better discovered?

Would this content be better told or better discovered?

My background is in experiential learning and I often err too much on the side of letting the students discover or uncover the importance of the content. So my favorite tip is simply a question to ask that helps me keep that temptation in check and prevent me from creating unnecessary interaction (busy work). “Would this content be better told or better discovered?” Asking this question helps me create more meaningful interactivity.

Ron Price

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Tim Buteyn - “White space” is your friend. Make sure everything on slide has a purpose, and it supports the learner’s comprehension.

“White space” is your friend. Make sure everything on slide has a purpose, and it supports the learner’s comprehension.

Less is more. Think of great visual presentations you’ve seen (Steve Jobs comes to mind) and one thing is common, slides that are clean and uncluttered. Often, slides focus solely on a particular thought. While most eLearning won’t be this singular in focus, too much information can provide more distraction than benefit. “White space” is your friend, and a little restraint can go a long way. Make sure that everything on slide is there with a purpose, and that it supports the learner in comprehending the topic in some tangible way.

Tim Buteyn

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Zsolt Olah - Forget slides! Imagine you’re having a conversation. You listen, probe, rephrase, clarify, explain...

Forget slides! Imagine you’re having a conversation. You listen, probe, rephrase, clarify, explain…

Forget slides! Imagine you’re having a conversation. You listen, probe, rephrase, clarify, explain… Instead of focusing on how to present content, explain how someone use this information on the job.

Zsolt Olah

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Diane Elkins - Can’t think of good visuals? Question your writing. Abstract concepts=hard to illustrate. Concrete tips =easier to illustrate

Can’t think of good visuals? Question your writing. Abstract concepts=hard to illustrate. Concrete tips =easier to illustrate

If you can’t think of a good visual, question your writing. General, abstract concepts are hard to illustrate. Concrete, practical tips are easier to illustrate.

Diane Elkins

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Sally Cox - Clean design, proper use of color, and properly placed elements create a "flow" for your learner to follow.

Clean design, proper use of color, and properly placed elements create a “flow” for your learner to follow.

Pay attention to the hierarchy of all the elements on your slide. Clean design, proper use of color, and properly placed elements create a “flow” for your learner to follow. Less is more, so remove elements or extra text that don’t contribute to the story.

Sally Cox

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Cara North - Stopping thinking of it as a slide and consider how it fits into the big picture of the learning experience you are creating.

Stopping thinking of it as a slide and consider how it fits into the big picture of the learning experience you are creating.

Don’t think of it as a slide but as part of the journey. Often designers get stuck in the “slide” format when developing their learning experiences. How does the slide advance the story and content? It doesn’t have to be full of written content, it can be something as simple as an opportunity to pause and reflect or an opportunity for folks to ask questions about the content.

Cara North

A consistent slide layout is central to a consistent learning experience.

Whatever slide layout you decide upon, apply it consistently. This will help your learner to navigate your course and focus on the content without being distracted by an ever-changing design. Recognise that your slides cannot ignore the law of ‘reading gravity’. Look up The Gutenberg Diagram and arrange your slide to take advantage of this principle. A consistent slide layout is central to a consistent learning experience.

Jonathan Hill

Every slide should have a purpose. Don’t just fill the space: make it meaningful and impactful.

Many people create slides, and add content just because they have the content on their hands. They then force their learners to go through all of the content, whether it’s relevant to them, or not. Allow your learners to discover the content they want to learn. Some content is meant to be told, while other content is meant to be discovered.

Stefanie Lawless

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Emily Wood - Develop for the use case of the realistic least desirable learning circumstances.

Develop for the use case of the realistic least desirable learning circumstances.

Develop for the worst case user experience a learner is likely to have and build a workable solution. If that’s a low bandwidth, older generation smartphone, create a slide where every object adds value. Focusing on the expense with of each object being added, you will end up with meaningful and high impact design.

Emily Wood

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Dawn J Mahoney CPLP - No need for company logo taking up precious screen real estate. People know where they work. Display on first & last screen.

No need for company logo taking up precious screen real estate. People know where they work. Display on first & last screen.

Do whatever you can to maximize screen real estate. One way is to remove the company logo from your slides. Of course, display it on the first screen and, if needed, the last screen. (People know where they work)

Dawn J Mahoney CPLP

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Richard Goring - Use Morph in PowerPoint - easily create dynamic visual content to effectively explain ideas then export to video for any use.

Use Morph in PowerPoint – easily create dynamic visual content to effectively explain ideas then export to video for any use.

Use the Morph transition in PowerPoint to quickly and easily create dynamic, visual content that explain even the most complex ideas elegantly and effectively. It’s so easy to use and encourages compelling visual storytelling that helps people learn far more effectively. And then use PowerPoint’s export to video function to create a standard MP4 file for use in eLearning authoring tools or as a standalone video for people to view.

Richard Goring

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Chana Messer - Good elearning is a digital playground. Make it engaging!

Good elearning is a digital playground. Make it engaging!

Think about the content. Not so much Text.
Readability
Make it clear and and esy to read.
Good content. use infographics.
Prioritize your goal try not too many subjects at a time.

Chana Messer

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Theresa Jackson - Tell a visual story with image and graphics.

Tell a visual story with image and graphics.

Use less words and more visuals. Utilize stock resources for photographs and illustrations that bring the script to life. If you have Photoshop skills, consider creating surprising and interesting images for your slides. Once I Photoshopped a large elephant into a small empty room to illustrate a common saying. I don’t have to tell you what the saying is. You know it from the visual. If you must use words in your slides, don’t write out sentences that match the script.

Theresa Jackson

Start by asking yourself “why would a person spend their limited time on this slide?”

Purpose. Every piece of content you ask someone to review must have a clear purpose and value. People have a great capacity for paying attention when they want/need to, but they also have unlimited options for their attention. Start by asking “why would a person spend their limited time on this slide?”

JD Dillon

eLearning Slide Design Tip by Aaron King - Learn to balance design and instruction. Learners don't care how pretty the content is if they don't learn anything.

Learn to balance design and instruction. Learners don’t care how pretty the content is if they don’t learn anything.

Don’t overwhelm your learners with too much or irrelevant content. Sure, being creative is awesome, but there should be a balance between aesthetics and instruction.

Great instructional designers understand how to manage cognitive load during the design process. They also know the differences between Intrinsic, Extraneous, and Germaine cognitive load. Designing good elearning is about balancing instructional elements, UI/UX, and graphic design to create engaging content that helps learners achieve the learning outcomes.

Aaron King

Avoid text dump slides. You’re better off with slightly more slides, but with less text on each one.

Content dump slides might keep your slide count down, but they tend to get in the way of people actually learning anything from them. In most cases you’re better off having slightly more slides that have less content on each one. It will help with retention of information and also not make people’s eyes automatically glaze over when they look at them.

Bianca Woods

And that’s it! 38 awesome tips from the pros. Here they all are, summarized below:

  1. Be bold and confident with your slide design. Good design helps sell the learning. – France Hernandez
  2. Everything on the slide “speaks” to learners. Figure out the key point on each slide, and design visuals to portray it. – Brooke Schepker
  3. Control text, images, animations, audio, or activities so the learner is never distracted from where you want their attention. – Jackie Van Nice
  4. Don’t just deliver content: Ask important questions and offer activities. Deep processing is critical for deeper learning. – Patti Shank, PhD
  5. Use your slides to help your learners see what you’re trying to say. – Tim Slade
  6. Every element on the slide engages the learner and moves them towards achieving the learning objective. – Richard Watson
  7. Use words learners use, not SMEs. Show things learners understand, not IDs. – Sam Rogers
  8. Less is more on-screen. – Patti Bryant
  9. Save examples of great design that you see and use it the next time you are stumped. – Linda Lorenzetti
  10. Align objects to guidelines to create a unified look across multiple slides. – Christy Tucker
  11. Say “So for example…” as much as possible — you can also have slide template to support it. – Julie Dirksen
  12. Design your content so it works well for all devices, then test thoroughly. – Jacqueline Hutchinson
  13. Avoid the templates and defaults setting. Make it visual and tell a story! – Phil Mayor
  14. Be brief with your messaging, brief but clear. Check that you have done so with the target audience. – Bruce Graham
  15. Clean and focused. – Mike Taylor
  16. Incite action in learners through the activation of previous knowledge. Help learners solve problems, not read a fancy e-book. – Alexander Salas
  17. Recipe for a bored and glazed out learner? Cram LOTS and LOTS of words onto a slide. – Cammy Bean
  18. Visuals should lift up the content as opposed to the content supporting the visuals. – Kevin Thorn
  19. Use an image to represent a concept, sparking curiosity. – Clark Quinn
  20. Guide learners’ attention by using slide elements wisely!! – Will Thalheimer
  21. Ensure the font size is appropriate for the viewing audience; whether they are at the front/back of the room, or on a device. – Tracy Parish
  22. Would this content be better told or better discovered? – Ron Price
  23. “White space” is your friend. Make sure everything on slide has a purpose, and it supports the learner’s comprehension. – Tim Buteyn
  24. Forget slides! Imagine you’re having a conversation. You listen, probe, rephrase, clarify, explain… – Zsolt Olah
  25. Can’t think of good visuals? Question your writing. Abstract concepts = hard to illustrate. Concrete tips = easier to illustrate. – Diane Elkins
  26. Clean design, proper use of color, and properly placed elements create a “flow” for your learner to follow. – Sally Cox
  27. Don’t think of elearning as a presentation. Make it an instructive conversation with the learner. – Michael Allen
  28. Stopping thinking of it as a slide and consider how it fits into the big picture of the learning experience you are creating. – Cara North
  29. A consistent slide layout is central to a consistent learning experience. – Jonathan Hill
  30. Every slide should have a purpose. Don’t just fill the space: make it meaningful and impactful. – Stefanie Lawless
  31. Develop for the use case of the realistic least desirable learning circumstances. – Emily Wood
  32. No need for company logo taking up precious screen real estate. People know where they work. Display on first & last screen. – Dawn J. Mahoney CPLP
  33. Use Morph in PowerPoint – easily create dynamic visual content to effectively explain ideas then export to video for any use. – Richard Goring
  34. Good elearning is a digital playground. Make it engaging! – Chana Messer
  35. Tell a visual story with image and graphics. – Theresa Jackson
  36. Start by asking yourself “why would a person spend their limited time on this slide?”- JD Dillon
  37. Learn to balance design and instruction. Learners don’t care how pretty the content is if they don’t learn anything. – Aaron King
  38. Avoid text dump slides. You’re better off with slightly more slides, but with less text on each one. – Bianca Woods

Get your free download!