Five Tips for Choosing Fonts for Elearning
Explore behind the drop down menu on any of the big name content creation applications and you’ll find hundreds of fonts in all shapes and sizes. How do you find one that is perfect for your elearning project? Which one will deliver information clearly to your learners, while also contributing to an engaging design? Here are five tips for matchmaking fonts for your project.
1. Remember who your end user is.
In 2012, the scientists at CERN announced that the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator had succeeded in its mission to discover the Higgs Boson particle. Unfortunately, their announcement was undermined as Twitter users had a giggle over their choice of font. Comic Sans is more school science project than advanced particle physics. Don’t make the same mistake! Consider the tonal expectations of your end users and choose fonts appropriately. Also, don’t forget to consider how your users are encountering your content. Someone on a phone or tablet may require fonts which are easier to read on a smaller device, for example.
2. Think about the function of your font.
Where a font is used can make a big difference to how legible and appropriate it is. Are you using a font for the main body of your text, or as a header to introduce a new topic? Serif fonts, which have decorative lines at the ends of letter strokes, were originally designed in the era of the printing press to make pages of text easier to read. You’ll often find them used in newspapers or books. For text encountered digitally, many people prefer the cleaner look of sans serif fonts for larger chunks of text. Don’t give up on serif fonts just yet, though. Serif fonts and decorative fonts can still be used with great effect as headers in eLearning projects. Two contrasting fonts create a signpost to your learners when beginning a new topic. In fact, multiple psychology studies have shown that slowing down the tempo of a learner’s reading by using less fluid fonts can deepen engagement. Just don’t get too carried away! Remember that fancy fonts are the seasoning in your elearning soup. A little pinch goes a long way.
3. Be consistent.
Once you have assigned a font to have a role in your project, it’s important to continue to use it in the same role. Learners use familiar cues like fonts to navigate through content. Change things around and they may be snapped out of the learning process as they try to re-orientate themselves. For the same reason, try not to use more than two or three fonts in a single project
4. Find alternatives to over used fonts
In 1992, Time New Roman, Arial and Courier were shot into typographical stardom by being included along with the Windows 3.1 operating system. Twenty-five years later, and they can seem quite old and tired compared with the hundreds of new fonts which are now available online. Next time you are tempted to pick an old favourite font, try looking online for a similar alternative. You might just find a future classic!
5. Tweak fonts to suit your needs.
In elearning design, it is important not to overwhelm learners with densely packed information. Think about the use of blank or neutral space around fonts. This is often called whitespace by designers, although in digital design it does not have to be white. Many elearning applications allow you to alter the amount of space between lines of text (leading) or between individual characters (kerning). Heavy fonts may benefit from more whitespace, while lighter fonts can be used more densely. Just remember to be consistent and use the same amount of whitespace in a font throughout your design.
You’ve just picked out the perfect font for your project. Just don’t forget that it is a small part of the experience for your learners. Whether content is readable also relies on colour, structure and other visual elements. You can see more tips about elearning course design on our blog here. Check out how we can inject colour into your elearning by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.