5 Digital learning design principles

Thu 02 Mar 2023

Many companies and businesses are turning to digital learning online courses to upskill their employees, develop their talents and educate them on developments in the industry. Knowing how to develop and design digital learning courses is a key skill for those in the learning and development industry. 

Many learning professionals are beginning to understand the shift towards virtual learning, so here are some of the digital learning design principles you should know before developing a digital learning course.

Know your audience

A key element to developing a digital learning course is understanding who your audience is. Is your audience young adults, recent graduates or stockbrokers? Either way, understanding your audience means you can tailor your design to meet their needs and expectations.

If you’re developing a digital learning course for real estate agents, the design of the course should represent that demographic. Essentially, consider age, occupation and educational level for an optimal learning experience. 

If you tailor your learning content to your audience, they are more likely to have a positive experience with your learning platform. 

Prioritise key-points

Notice how this article has the subheadings larger than the rest of the text? It is common practice to have a visual hierarchy amongst any piece of informational text. You want to make sure your important information is grabbing your learner's attention.

During design and development, a subject matter expert will plan the visual layout of the information to prioritise any key points, headings, titles and facts. This will keep your audience engaged and interested, as no one wants to learn from a monotonous piece of text!

Although text size is a key factor in arranging text based on importance, the use of different fonts, shapes, backgrounds and colour can all make for a more effective learning experience.

But be careful to not clutter your text, remember, this is a hierarchy, so you need to meet the highs with the lows, and this leads us on to our next point.

Cut the clutter

A learning environment should be easy to read, navigate and digest. Learners should be able to easily find where to start, where to go next, and where to end. If you over clutter your virtual classroom, you run the risk of over stimulating and confusing your learner. 

Have you ever had a desk so messy you can’t think straight? Well, the same rule applies to digital learning design. So here are a few things you can do to cut the clutter:


Information overload can cloud your learner's judgement, preventing them from understanding which important aspects of information they need to absorb. Remember, you’re the educator, so it’s your responsibility to prioritise information for your learner.

Less is more

Remember to keep any visual design simple, stick to 2-3 colours and fonts. Give your digital learning course a colour and font hierarchy. Headings can be all the same colour and font, as should any important bullet points. 


Break your information up into key points. After around 2-3 sentences, start a new paragraph. This is proven to make information easier to absorb, leading to a much more effective digital learning experience. 

Make sure to break up your information into multiple different pages and keep plenty of blank space between chunks of information. 

Use multimedia 

Remember, this is an eLearning course! Take advantage of this and use technology to support your learner. Some people are visual learners, some are auditory, and some… are both! The aim of a digital learning designer is to make it a fun, enjoyable and educational experience for learners.

Use digital technology to your advantage and be sure to add interactive features, quizzes, videos and more to make your learning experience more enjoyable and interactive. Fun quizzes or games at the end of each section can keep your learner engaged throughout and can make for a more enjoyable online learning experience. 

Keep it consistent and easy to navigate

Learners will be typically using your course for the first time, so make sure it is familiar and easy to navigate. Once they get through navigating the first or second page, there should be no surprises. 

Keep the pages consistent throughout the learning course so learners can concentrate on learning, rather than how to navigate their way through the course. 

Here are a few pointers on how to keep it consistent and easy to navigate:

Keep it familiar

Your digital learning design shouldn’t be too different from any other course or platform your user may have used before. Also, it is important to keep the layout and navigational tools the same throughout the course to avoid confusion. 

Instructional design

Make sure to keep the user informed throughout with arrows and information on what to do next. Your course should be designed for learning, so your learners shouldn’t have to worry about how to navigate their way through the course. 

Learners don’t want to make a mistake by clicking the wrong button too soon, let them know exactly what to do and how to do it. 

Are you looking to enhance your career by becoming a digital learning professional? Do you want to upskill your L&D staff to know how to develop and design digital learning courses for your employees? MOL offers digital learning design courses so our learners can develop their L&D careers.

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