According to Interaction Design Foundation – User Interface (UI) design is the process of making interfaces in software or computerized devices with a focus on usability and style. Designers aim to create designs that users will find easy to use and pleasurable. UI design typically refers to graphical user interfaces but also includes others, such as voice-controlled ones.

Whereas User Experience (UX) design is the process of creating products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.

What’s the difference between UX and UI design?

UI design uses the principles of graphic design and typography to bring the UX design to life.  In the context of e-learning, UI design is what makes the e-learning visually attractive. UX refers to the way a product or process feels for a person. In the context of e-learning, the product is the e-learning module.
The UX focus is on learner experience, satisfaction and usability, and it covers everything from the instructional design, to creating an overall learner experience.

How UI applies to e-learning to give a makeover?

UI is the visual part of the e-learning course that learners interact with like the color schemes, navigation, graphics and fonts. The role of a designer is to anticipate what the learners will need to do and how they will do it.

1.Visual Appeal

Visually appeal in e-learning can excite the learners, generate interest and ensure that learners are hooked to the learning content. Studies suggest that visual appeal has greater importance than the attractiveness it creates. For example, a Stanford research report mentions that 46.1% of users stated that a website was trustworthy based simply on the look (layout, typography, color scheme, etc.) Hence, in the context of e-learning, bad visual designs can disengage the learners and at the same time make them feel that the e-module is not relevant.

Therefore the UI designers should carefully choose the visual elements in e-learning to make the learning process effective and visually appealing. Also, care should be taken to make the e-learning accessible to users of all abilities, including those with low vision, color blindness, etc. For example, people perceive color differently — some users can see a full range of colors, but many people can only make out a limited range of colors.


  1. Don’t overload with visual elements.
  2. Include visual elements that are easy to understand.
  3. Use the right color and relevant images.
  4. Maintain visual consistency.

Here are some popular and handpicked visual elements in e-learning


Research has proven beyond doubt that color/s can influence the human mind, as well as our perception. There are a lot of factors that influence  the perception of colors among the viewers like the gender and age of the viewers, the cultural background and the geographical location etc. Hence I feel that colors are one of the most important elements of graphic design.

1.2. Typography

While choosing the typography, as a designer the primary focus should be to ensure that the content on the screen is readable for the learners. It should be clearly visible and the learners shouldn’t feel that the text is too small or cluttered. This is ensured by choosing the right typeface for e-learning.

Here are 5 important tips that should be considered while choosing the typography for e-learning:

1.Choose a font palette that is clean and use a combination of two font styles to suit the heading and body.
2.Ensure that the font size is easily legible for your learners. Usually, it is 12 to 16 pixels for the body in a typical e-learning screen.
3.Most of your e-learning courses are accessed through a web browser or mobile browser so it is important to choose font styles which render well in the browsers.
4.Use the same font family for a group of text-serif or sans serif or use contrasting family for body and title.
5.Limit the course to two or three fonts.

1.3 Line

Put two dots anywhere on a paper and you can connect these dots by drawing a line. While there is no exact definition for line, we can call it as linear marks. There are different types of lines identified as:

•Vertical lines
•Zig Zag lines
•Horizontal lines
•Curved lines

When lines are adapted to the world of design they are used to add styles, create forms, and divide space by being a border around other design elements etc. Like colors, lines can also communicate various meanings to the viewers. Straight ones can evoke order and neatness, wavy lines can create movement, and zig-zagged lines can imply tension or excitement.

1.4 Transparency

Transparency is now becoming a more popular element of graphic design and particularly e-learning graphic design. The present graphic designs bring transparency to the table by reducing the opacity of the objects, images and other graphics. This creates a calm and soothing feel to the eyes and at the same time, transparent designs can be used with other graphics elements like texts and visuals to make the look more appealing or focused.

1.5  Contrast

This design element still continues to rule the roost.
The contrast between light and dark colors work effectively to create readability, which is the most important function of any e-learning course.


Shapes can be as complex or  as simple as the designer chooses. The human brain responds to graphic design shapes in different ways. For example, circles are often associated with feelings of inclusion and community, while squares are structured and solid. When it comes to geometric graphic design, the surrounding elements of website or logo shapes can have an impact on the viewer’s perception associated with shapes.

Other popular visual elements/design principles are the following
•Grid,alignments and layout

For more information on UI and UX Design Principles for e-learning makeover, please visit our portfolio page.


Consistency is one of the strongest element in UI design. Consistency applies to every aspect of the user interface in e-learning as an inconsistent design can derail the learning experience.


1.Check  details such as the color, font size, behavior and functions stay the same throughout the e-learning.
2.Ensure that chosen layouts are consistent throughout the e-learning.
3.Ensure that you use consistent graphics objects-illustrations, characters and icons throughout the e-learning.


Navigation should always be clear and self-evident. Users should be able to enjoy exploring the e-learning. Cluttered navigation can destroy the learning experience entirely. The issue becomes more serious when the learner access the learning content on various mobile devices like iPad, smartphone, desktop, etc. For example, the next button  is usually placed on the bottom left corner. Placing the same next button on the right top corner or at another random place can destroy the user experience.


1.Provide visual cues to user actions if needed
2.Provide a clear next step, don’t let the user explore to find out what to do next.
3.Use consistent navigation techniques throughout the e-learning


While we speak about high-speed internet connectivity, a good designer should ensure that

the e-learning course is lightweight and loads faster. Thanks to the high-speed internet connectivity as learners are increasingly becoming impatient. Hence the chosen UI design should perform well on multiple devices like Desktop, smartphone, tablet, etc.

5.Consider the existing standards

Web design and e-learning designs have a lot of similarities. They can be considered as close relatives as they exhibit and apply similar design principles like choosing navigation, layouts, fonts, multimedia and more. With users already familiar in interacting with various websites, there is always a high probability that the users will exhibit and expect the same nature of interaction with e-learning. For example, a text on the blue color font and underlined on the website usually means it is hyperlinked. Thus designers should expect the same behavior from the learners once they are exposed to the same in e-learning.

So now how UX applies to e-learning?

UX design is the process of dreaming up an experience that mirrors user needs and expectations. It’s about organizing and structuring the content and features of your product so people can easily find and use them.

Here are some factors to consider while applying UX designs to give e-learning a makeover

1.Identify Learner Personas

This stage is all about analysing the audience. This is identical to the process of ADDIE where learners are analysed thoroughly to gain more insights about the learning behavior, existing knowledge etc. The designers can choose to easily categorise the learners into three different learner personas like




Classifying/ categorising learners into different personas can help the designers to design learning experience accordingly. For example, a learner who has expert knowledge on the learning topic will be least interested to go through the basics of the learning content as he/she already has a deep understanding of it. Instead, allow the expert learner to navigate and explore more advanced learning topics or allow him/ her to get direct access to the assessments in e-learning.

2.Map Out Learner Scenarios

Mapping out the learner persona shows how each chosen learner persona will interact with the e-learning course. This helps the designer to step into the shoes of the learners and identify how each learner persona will interact with the e-learning. It helps in removing the obstacles in the learning experience if any.For example, Expert — Skips the introduction and basic– prefer direct access to the quiz or advanced information. Whereas a beginner goes through every topic before accessing the quiz or assessment and an Intermediate learner mostly prefers to consider only those topics that he/she feels to reconsider as they don’t remember or not sure about it.  

3.List Course Features

Mapping out the learner scenario gives insights to list the course features for the identified personas. For example, here are some of the features you’ll need to include:

1.Option to skip to the quiz
2.Menu with access to the various chapters
3.Access menu from content slides
4.Go back
5.Go forward
6.Retake quiz
7.Review course

Once the course features are identified and listed, the designer can prioritize what is essential or must have. For example, if the majority of the learners are beginners, then it’s not worth to create the features required for intermediate and expert learner personas like direct access to various chapters, options to skip quiz, etc. This can derail the learning experience and learning objectives.

However, if you have an equal amount of learners from each group, you should consider including all of the required features.

4.Design the UI

This stage is all about implementing the structure with the help of User interface design techniques. It includes making decisions like ‘What should the buttons look like?’ rounded, edged or square type. Where should they be located or placed?

5.Testing Phase

Once done building the e-learning course, I recommend to strongly test the e-learning on a target group of learners. Make sure to include people that fit into the different identified persona. Allow them to freely explore the course and ensure that proper feedback is taken

Have them answer questions like:

Did the course meet your expectations? If not, why not?
What features are missing?
Is the navigation smooth or cluttered?
How quick are they able to find the buttons and icons?
Did anything seem out of place or unnecessary?
Did you encounter any pain points? If so, what? And more ..

Following these 5 steps can ensure a positive learning experience with your e-learning courses.  As a bonus here are the recent trends of UI and UX designs in e-learning

1.Making learning playful with game elements

One of the current trends is about gamifying the learning experience with the use of motivational elements and engaging design, to make learning playful. Gamification plays a major role in it as the designer can choose a variety of game mechanics like rewards, points, leaderboards, etc to make learning fun and engaging. IT helps in breathing life to
dull learning topic and creating an amazing user experience.

2.Minimalistic designs

Minimalistic designs see a rising trend among modern users who prefer more clarity and a clutter-free interface. This is evident and seen across the websites, mobile apps and e-learning is no different. I feel that minimalistic designs is extremely beneficial when the learners use mobile devices like smartphones, tablets etc for learning as it minimalist design can enhance the learning experience on mobile devices.

3.Responsive designs

Today responsive designs are a must to have feature in e-learning. With learners preferring to access the learning content on various devices of his/her choice, the organisation has no choice other than ensuring the learning content follows the principle of responsive designs which is moving to the mobile first design approach.

4.Bite-sized learning

This is a trend that is especially noticed in the mobile learning apps. With limited screen size and due to the limited attention span of the learners, the UI and UX designs need to change to design for bite-sized e-learning.

5.Machine learning and AI capabilities

Responding to future learning needs, the UI and UX will shift towards a major re-haul of designs to accommodate the AI and machine learning capabilities. The UI will become more dynamic to accommodate and include the most relevant learning content  with other recommendations based on the patterns and user behavior . Thus the future of UI and UX designs looks interesting and at the same time challenging for the developers. I would love to hear your views on it, you can write to us at or use the comment box below.

For more information on UI and UX Design Principles for e-learning makeover, please visit our portfolio page.