7 Visual Distractions You Should Eliminate From Your eLearning Course Design

7 Visual Distractions You Should Eliminate From Your eLearning Course Design
Summary: Visuals are meant to improve learner comprehension and allow them to assign meaning. However, misplaced or irrelevant design elements can have the opposite effect. In this article, I discuss 7 visual distractions you should eliminate from your eLearning course as soon as possible.

Visual Distractions To Avoid In Your eLearning Course Design

Have you wondered whether some of your visual elements are more of a distraction than a learning tool? While it is important to enhance the aesthetic appeal with eye-catching images and graphics, you need to be well aware of what works for your online learners and what doesn’t. The visuals should aid them in learning rather than detract from the topic and key takeaways. That is why you should avoid the following 7 visual distractions in your eLearning course design.

7 Top eLearning Course Design Distractions That Hinder Engagement

1. Controversial Images

Images, in general, are a great learning tool. They help online learners associate information with a memorable photo, making it easier to retain and recall that information. However, when using images, you need to be careful as to who your target audience is and how it relates to the information you want to relay. The last thing you need is a controversial image that gets them talking about the picture instead of the topic. How can you tell if an image will stir up controversy and make certain online learners feel uncomfortable? The key is audience research. This way you will know which topics are sensitive and you won’t use any images that may offend or distract them in any way.

2. Unreadable Font

We have all been there, using a script or old-English styled fonts to make our material look more elegant and appealing. However, as beautiful as it may look, these font types aren’t easy to read. They make the task of learning a lot more tedious for online learners and eventually put them off towards it. Think about it, who wants to spend 30 seconds trying to figure out a single word in a sentence. Your eLearning course is supposed to be easy to read, not a puzzle. Keep the font as simple as possible so that online learners can get the information they require. I recommend using the basics like Times New Roman or Calibri, both of which are easy on the eyes.

3. Too Many Navigation Icons

Navigation icons can guide lost online learners and tell them where they need to go to get the necessary information. When they are lost or just slightly confused, the navigation icons come in handy. However, having too many navigation icons can create confusion. They don’t know which one to click since there are so many to choose from. Unclear navigation icons are another force to be reckoned with. Online learners are so busy trying to figure out what a button means that they lose sight of the learning objectives. Use simple icons for navigation and don’t overcrowd your eLearning course design with too many of them.

4. Overuse Of Graphs And Charts

Graphs and charts help you turn data into easy to digest information for online learners, but overusing them can be quite distracting. In fact, it can even cause cognitive overload. You shouldn’t use more than 3-4 graphs or charts per module—even that may be too much for some online learners. Another issue is incorporating charts that are too complicated or aren’t clearly explained. For example, the visual is nothing more than a jumble of lines and numbers. Online learners don’t understand the significance of the stats or how it all ties into the training topic.

5. Irrelevant Video Clips

Videos are great for breaking down complex tasks and giving online learners an example to follow. However, there should also be a purpose behind the video demos and clips you incorporate into your eLearning course. For instance, your animated video features memorable characters and an emotionally compelling storyline. But it doesn’t have a place in your eLearning course design if it doesn’t support the learning objectives and is used merely for entertainment value. You can also include video links so that online learners can watch the clip or demo after the fact. That way, they can concentrate on the module or activity and give it their full attention. Then reinforce the information with a video that improves memory retention.

6. Eye-Catching GIFs

GIFs and memes are all the rage, but they really don’t belong in eLearning course design. There are two distinct reasons for this. The first is that they diminish the professionalism of your eLearning course design. The second is that they distract online learners from the subject matter. Instead of focusing on the task or compliance topic, employees are busy laughing at the GIFs or sharing them with their peers. That said, feel free to include relevant GIFs in your social media posts or blogs, so long as they don’t make online learners feel uncomfortable.

7. Complicated Visual Metaphors Or Symbols

The purpose behind using visual metaphors or symbols is to help online learners assign meaning and improve knowledge retention. Essentially, complex ideas are transformed into images and graphics that are easy to comprehend and remember. However, complicated visual metaphors make things even more complex for online learners. Rather than absorbing the information, they spend the next 5 minutes trying to decipher the metaphor or struggling to figure out what the symbol means and how it ties into the subject matter.


When it comes to the use of visual elements in an eLearning course, play around with the elements and find what works for your online learners. However, that doesn’t make it okay to use too many visual elements of any type, or images that stir up controversy. Visual elements are learning tools that should always be used in moderation (and with purpose). You must find the right balance of visual elements in your eLearning course so that they help instead of hinder knowledge transfer.

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