6 tips for the optimal use of visuals

The power of visuals is undeniable. We love watching movies and series, and on social media we post photos rather than extensive textual descriptions of the beautiful trips we took and fun festivals we attended. Assembling the IKEA closet becomes much easier after watching the instruction video instead of reading the manual. All in all, we love visuals. Research finds that if information is accompanied by at least one relevant image, readers can recollect 65% of said information even after a few days have passed. When the content only consists of text, however, readers remember just 10% of the information. 


Visual elements are therefore perfect for your e-learning. But how do you ensure you have the best ones? We give 6 practical tips for the optimal use of visuals here.


1. The selection process

Choosing images for your online training should not be an afterthought. A relevant and appealing image is just as important for your users as well-written texts are, as it lessens their cognitive load and attracts their attention. It is therefore important to take your time to select the images. 


Think of the message you want to convey. Do you want to evoke a particular emotion? Do you want users to learn a procedure? Or that they take a specific action? When you have the answers to these questions, you can select a perfectly relevant image. Make sure that the image clarifies the content and supports the learning process.


2. Combine visuals and words

As can be seen in newspapers, magazines, and study books: images always have a caption. They do this because it has been proven that combining images with a piece of text that clarifies them are more effective when trying to study specific material. Make sure that the image and text convey the same idea and that the image does not overpower the text. 


We do not like reading texts that are overwhelmingly long, which is why you should divide large pieces of text with the use of design elements like images.


3. Images with people do better

Images containing real people who look you right in the eyes are more powerful than photos of objects, landscapes, or panorama photos of large groups of people. We immediately feel a connection to people who look at us directly, even from an image, and this is especially true for faces expressing emotions. You can make your online training extra relevant and appealing by using photos of people doing identifiable things, and while the use of stock images is sometimes inevitable, it is best to use your own photos whenever possible. 


4. Being in line with your users' needs

We often feel drawn to people and situations that reflect our own reality, and want to know more about people we can identify ourselves with. You can keep your users super involved if you can convince them that you are talking about them, their problems in the workplace, and the people they come across in their everyday life, in the training. Long story short, your users want to see a representation of themselves in the training. Are your users salespeople, for example, then make sure that you include images that show the way a salesperson works. 


Something to keep in mind while selecting an image are the human being’s basic needs. Copywriter Drew Eric Whitman writes in his book Ca$hvertising about the eight basic needs that you can use to motivate your user. These are:

  1. Living longer and enjoying life
  2. Food and drinks
  3. Avoiding fear, pain, and danger
  4. Reproduction
  5. Comfortable life
  6. Competing against others, and winning
  7. Protecting loved ones
  8. Being socially accepted


Think about the goal of your e-learning and to which basic needs you respond. Try to use as few stock photos as you can to make sure that everything is believable and credible.


Basic need

Image that has a strong association with the basic need

Mindfulness and working vitally

Living longer and enjoying life

Images of happy people in the workplace

A course in online marketing

Being socially accepted

Someone receiving applause after giving a presentation about online marketing

Offering the best customer service

Competing against others, and winning

Someone receiving 5 star feedback from a client


5. Variation, diversity, change

Our brain loves variation. We all love escaping our daily routines, but also from variety in our meals, clothing, and things we do. Your users love the same variation in their online learning environment, and this will cause them to be less bored and distracted, and keep them interested in the courses. 


Think beyond images, use graphs or infographics to summarise key elements, and use animated GIFs or videos whenever possible. For example, instead of presenting written text or reading it aloud, you can play a video or show a scenario in the form of an illustration.



6. Do not forget: copyright

Do not forget about copyright when you are searching for the perfect image. It can be difficult to find out if you are actually allowed to use a random image found on Google, as they are often copyrighted. You can find lots of copyright-free images on websites such as unsplash.com and pexels.com! 


There is more than enough inspiration for the visuals of your e-learning! The Hubper library offers our own e-leranings complete with carefully selected visuals and formats to keep your user interested and challenged. Curious about our library? Discover it here 🚀