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5 Important Visual Design Elements in E-learning Localization

Visual design has a critical role to play in e-learning courses. As an L&D professional in an organization with a global workforce, you might find yourself involved in rolling out e-learning courses that are translated as your employees and customers may not necessarily speak English.

It’s not enough to stop with a simple translation of the e-learning course; you need to spend time thinking about the localization strategy to be followed. If you ignore localization, there is every chance that you might end up hurting learners’ sentiments.

The impact of visual design elements in e-learning localization is bigger than you think it is. The next time you are asked to work closely with a translation vendor or e-learning partner on the localization of an e-learning course, pay attention to the following five basic elements of visual design.

1. Graphics and Images

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and that’s reason enough to make our e-learning course rich in graphics and images. But are you sure that the images and graphics included in the course are relevant to your learners? In e-learning localization, we pay attention to text and tend to overlook the relevancy of images.

Let’s say you have developed a training program for employees of a global taxi company. The training is on road safety rules to be followed by cab drivers. In the English version of the course, you have included an image to represent the stress of the morning commute in New York. The taxi in the image is a distinct yellow which is the color of a traditional cab in New York City. When you plan to localize the course for cab drivers in Hong Kong, you need to keep in mind that taxis there, are color coded according to the region and can be red, blue, or green…but certainly not yellow.

It might be a small detail, but if you take the effort to localize the image according to the learners’ geographical location, it becomes easier for them to relate to the online training program.

While it is perfectly fine to include a thumbs up sign in an e-learning course, especially when you want to indicate that the learner has done a good job, it is not acceptable in countries in the Middle East and is considered offensive. Who would have thought that a harmless thumbs up gesture can end up hurting learners’ sentiments?

2. Fonts

It is better to stick to Unicode fonts that are translation-friendly, instead of using non-standard fonts. Certain languages have accents and special characters and using a font that does not support this might lead to the character being replaced by another font, or another character altogether.

For example large in German is written as groß. Notice the character highlighted in red. When you use a font that doesn’t support special characters, it may appear as grofs. This certainly hinders e-learning localization. Make sure that you provide the translation vendor the choice of fonts to be used for effective localization. Remember, picking the wrong font affects the readability of text in the e-learning course.

3. Color Scheme

Never assume that a color that works for one country or culture will work for another. Do a thorough research before implementing a color scheme in your e-learning course, to appeal to a multicultural audience.

For example, in the Western culture red is a color that indicates “danger”, or “incorrect”, or “forbidden”. But in China, it is a color associated with happiness and prosperity. The image of a room painted red could be considered pleasant by learners in China, but that may not be the case with learners in Western countries.

If you want your e-learning course to appeal to learners from different cultures, follow a neutral color palette or make the additional investment to change the colors in translated versions of the course.

4. Layout

White space is your friend when it comes to e-learning localization. This is because some languages take more space than others. A Spanish version of an e-learning course might require 25% more space for text as compared to the English version. So if you are using a fixed layout, you might have to scale down the font size in the Spanish version to accommodate text or find yourself looking at overflowing text on the screen. This will definitely have an impact on the look of the course. Learners do not prefer a text-heavy design, so it is always better to include a lot of white space so that translated courses do not look cluttered.

5. Scenarios

Scenarios make the training content relevant to learners and help them apply the learning to their job. If you are rolling out a safety training for factory employees in Mexico, why include a scenario that is based in an office in Australia? Scenarios in e-learning courses invariably involve the usage of characters. You need to choose characters that your learners can relate to. A better idea would be to let learners choose the avatars they want in the scenario.

E-learning localization requires you to plan ahead for the visual elements that need to be included in the translated versions of the course. It makes sense to spare some time and money on e-learning localization now rather than incur extra expenditure on course rework later on.

Would you like to add to this list of visual design elements that are important in e-learning localization? If yes, please use the Comments section as knowledge is best when shared.

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