The entire purpose of an online course is to help your students reach a desired outcome. You do this by figuring out what it is your audience wants to learn, crafting a killer curriculum, and creating course content that keeps your audience engaged and interested.
You’re already an expert in what you’re looking to teach, so step one and step two should be a breeze.
When it comes to actually creating the content, thought, we find people often have trouble.
They know what they want to teach, but conveying that through creating course material oftentimes overwhelms would-be course creators.
The truth is: creating your course slides isn’t nearly as difficult as it might seem so long as you know very basic design principles, and that’s what I’m going to cover today.
I'll share some of my best design secrets to help you create killer visuals and in particularly, slides. These tips can be used for any visual content you're creating, like ads, your worksheets, other resources, and even on your sales page.
I'm going to walk through:
- what sides are great for
- layout tips
- using colors and fonts
- easy image tweaks
The best part is, is you don't need to be a designer to implement these tips, either!
Why use slides in your course?
First, slides are valuable and easy to create. If you're trying to get content out quickly without having to set up a filming studio or film any videos, slides are great for that.
Most of you have probably used PowerPoint or Keynote at some point in your life, and that's all you need to create slides. You can use text and images to create lessons for your students that can be flipped through quickly.
Your slides don't have to be overly fancy or come with a ton of bells and whistles, as long as they clearly convey the information you're trying to teach your students.
Tips for Creating Slides
Now, let's get into the tips I mentioned earlier. I'm talking layout tips, colors, fonts and images to help you take your slides from blank to beautiful.
Format & Layout
Before you begin designing, make sure your slides are in the video format you’ll be shooting in.
For example, we shoot in a 16 by 9 aspect ratio. This is also an ideal YouTube ratio.
In Keynote, I designed the slides in the widescreen format. Using slides that are in the same format as your video ensures that no information is cut off and makes editing easier.
When you're adding text to your slides, keep your copy short and to the point. Don’t put paragraphs of information onto your slides, or they’ll be too difficult to follow.
It's way too much for your audience to take and it will cause them to become distracted. They’ll be trying to read everything on the slide and stop listening to you.
Instead, use bullet points or very short sentences. You can even use multiple slides for a point.
Your audience will thank you and it also makes everything look so much better.
Now, let's dive into choosing colors for your slides, your brand, and even your sales page. If you already have a brand, use your brand colors in your slides.
Your online course is a direct extension of you and your brand and your slides should have the same look and feel as the rest of your content. This way, when your audience sees your course, they will automatically know it's from you because they recognize the brand you’ve created.
If you don't have a brand or a color palette picked already, that's okay. Picking colors for your slides is a really easy place to start. Choose two to three colors to use throughout your slides. Pick one dark and one light color because they stand out the best when used together. Then pick a third complementary color to use for emphasis.
Keep in mind ease of legibility and how the colors look together when picking yours. To help you choose the colors that work well together, below are three great sites that you can use.
Tools for Choosing Colors
Colour Lovers: The first is Colour Lovers. It's a search engine palette generator and is a really great place to start, especially if you're just starting out. You can search for colors by keyword, hex code, and even by most recent creations.
Coolors: Coolors (with two Os!) is my new favorite generator. It's super easy to use and all you need to do is push the spacebar. That's it. Just go to the site, click generate palettes and press the spacebar, and a new palette comes up each time. To have more control, type in the color's hex code. A hex code is that six-digit number that starts with a hashtag. It's just one more way of representing a color, just like RGB or CMIK. Now once you type in the code, lock it so it doesn't change. Then, you guessed it, push the spacebar and it will generate palettes that go with that color.
Adobe: The last one is Adobe. You can either start with a very specific color just like I explained in Coolors, or you can just play with the color wheel and come up with palettes on your own.
Now every color has certain characteristics associated with it. Pink, for example, is often associated as a feminine and romantic color.
Green is associated with wealth and balance while blue is cool and trustworthy.
Think about it. Most of the banks you see, like Chase for example, have blue in their logos. Why? Because they want you to trust them that they will take care of your money.
When choosing colors for your course, business, or brand, think about how you want to be perceived by your audience.
If you're feeling stuck with this, draw inspiration from others. What colors are used by your favorite brands or businesses? What about those people who influence you? Pay attention to what they do. If there is something you like, try to replicate it.
Obviously, don't copy everything exactly, but if they have a nice red and orange color combination, for example, and you really like it, and that's what you want for your brand, try to find similar hues that work well for you and your intended brand.
The colors that you choose for your slides can be used as solid background colors, in shapes, or other design elements along the slides.
For text, use one color for the header text or when you want to emphasize an important word. You can also use the other color for body text.
Another note on body text is that sticking with black or dark gray or white, depending on the background color, is really best.
It's the most common and most standard, and really the easiest to read. It's better to stick with those colors and then add color in other ways.
Once again, I'm going to direct you back to SlideShare to pull inspiration from if you're feeling stuck. I really do this all the time. If I'm stuck on a design, it's great to look at other people and what they do to get some inspiration. Don't reinvent the wheel. If someone does something nice visually, replicate it. Tweak it to fit your colors and your look, and voila. You have a beautiful color palette or a really awesome new design element.
Now let's go into some tips about typography. First, choose a serif or sans serif font for your text. They are the easiest to read. The difference between them is the serif font is the one with the little tails on the edges of the letters, while the sans serif font does not.
I personally prefer sans serif fonts because they seem more friendly and casual, plus I really do find them easier to read.
Avoid using decorative or script fonts because they are a lot harder to read, especially when they're small. They're great to call out important words, a single important word or phrase, especially if it's only one word on a slide.
Yes, these fonts add pizazz to your slides, but to get a lot of information across, they're not good for it.
Go with a sans serif or a serif.
If you go to the website FontSquirrel, you’ll find commercial free fonts that can really give your content something extra. Some of my favorite sans serif fonts are Lato, which is actually the font used in all of the decks in this course, Raleway, which is the font on the Teachable website, and Open Sans.
Just like color sites, you can search by key words and font styles, for example, hand lettered, serif script, etc.
Then all you need to do is download the fonts that you like and install them on your computer.
A quick warning about using these fonts in your slide decks: Since they are not commonly found on most computers, if you share your Keynote or PowerPoint files only with somebody else, you will need to give them a zip file of the font. Otherwise, the content will look different because Keynote or PowerPoint will replace with a different font. Make sure you have your person install all the font first onto their computer before opening the Keynote files. Otherwise the content will look weird. If you're only giving out a PDF, you're fine.
One last thing to remember when you're choosing fonts is to make sure you use one that is large enough to read.
Don't go for a size 20 font. It's way too small. Start with at least 40 points, and even that can be pushing it. Bigger is always easier to read.
As I said in the beginning, we love visuals. Visuals keep your audience engaged, and make your slides look awesome.
StockSnap and Pexels are two stock aggregate sites. Search for anything. They usually have it. Those are my two go-tos, because they pull a lot from the sites listed. The team over at Crew created Unsplash as their side project, and really the images are all breathtaking and gorgeous. Totally recommend checking it out.
Gratisography is a pet project of photographer and designer Ryan Bell, and his photos are so entertaining. They totally make me laugh, and they're really great.
I've also created a article on our blog that lists out the 13 best free stock photo sites in my opinion. All of these sites are commercial free, too, so I would totally recommend going over to that post, and checking out some of the sites to find what you like the best.
Combining Text & Images
Alright, so now that you've found your images, let's talk about how to use text with them. My first tip is if the image is dark, use white as your text color. I've found that white stands out the best on images, versus some other lighter color, like a light yellow or a light blue. Obviously every image is different, but start with white.
Test out other colors if white doesn't look great, but just make sure you can read it.
Now what you might've guessed for the opposite. If the image is light, use a dark-colored text.
If the photo has a lot of colors or a lot of stuff going on, add a shape over it. Then all you have to do is add the text on top of your chosen shape.
When doing this, make sure you add the text in its own text box. This way, you have more control over the formatting versus if you add the text directly into this shape.
Another way to make text readable on a busy photo is to add a solid color rectangle over the image. All you need to do is to make a rectangle the size of the slide, pick your color, place it over the photo, and then reduce the opacity until you’ve reached your desired image to color ratio.
Plus, this is another way to bring your brand colors into your slides. You can also reverse that process. Instead of putting a color on top of the image, you can reduce the opacity of the image itself, so you can see it faintly in the background.
These are a few of my favorite easy design tips that you can start implementing today when you're creating your slides, or any ads, or anything. They're just going to take everything you've done to the next level. I can't wait to see what your content looks like. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. Have fun and happy designing!