When developing eLearning lessons using any of the top development tools (Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, or TechSmith Camtasia Studio), you need to take the size of your learner's device into account. If you make your eLearning lesson too large (I'm talking width and height, not how many megabytes the lesson might be), learners with small displays may have to scroll to see your content. If your published lesson has the ability to scale to fit the learners display, your content could scale down so small that your content will become unusable.
While you can create a project at one size and resize it smaller later, it's not an ideal workflow. Resizing a project once you've started will likely result in shifting of screen objects that require additional editing on your end. For that reason, it's best to pick a width and height that will work for the widest possible range of devices right from the start.
Several years ago, the typical desktop computer display resolution was 800x600 pixels. If you developed eLearning content for a screen resolution that low, a project size of 640x480 was recommended. A few years later, 1024x768 was the standard screen resolution, resulting in typical eLearning lessons sized to 800x600. According to w3schools.com, the standard desktop screen resolution today is 1366x768 and it's trending higher. (You'll find that available resolutions vary from system to system. For instance, I use an HP 22 inch display that doesn't support 1366x768. Instead, my closest options are 1360x768 and 1376x812.)
Because screen resolutions are higher than ever, developers are seeking an optimal viewing experience for learners. But what's the ideal size for an eLearning lesson? Unfortunately, there isn't a cookie-cutter answer. The size of the lesson you create depends largely on your customer. What is the typical device you expect your learner to be using? How big is its screen? Is the device typically used vertically (portrait) or horizontally (landscape)? What is its typical resolution?
If you are creating content for learners using standard desktop computers (Windows or Mac), a project size of 800x600 still works well. However, if you plan to post your content to YouTube, stay away from 800x600. At that size, your lesson won't look quite right when viewed on YouTube (you will likely see black bars on one or both sides of the video, and the video might look distorted during playback).
What's the Relationship Between Project Size and Screen Resolution?
Let's say that you create a project that is sized to 800x600. I view your lesson on a 17-inch monitor with a resolution of 1024x768. In this scenario, your lesson is going to look fine on my monitor. But what if I have a large screen (a 27-inch monitor for instance), and I'm using a high resolution? Your lesson is going to have a lot of white space to the left and right. Will that white space make the lesson look silly? Who's to say?
It's a delicate balancing act between the size of the capture area and an ideal screen resolution. When I create YouTube videos, I set my eLearning tool's capture size to 1024x568 and my screen resolution to 1440x900. While I could go higher with my screen resolution and capture more of the screen, the captured screen text at a higher screen resolution is small and hard to read. When I upload videos to YouTube, the already small text gets worse because YouTube makes my videos smaller.
More information on sizing eLearning projects:
- If you'd like to learn more about project dimensions, this article on the TechSmith website is very helpful. While it's written specifically for Camtasia Studio projects, the information is also relevant for Storyline and Captivate developers.
- If you're a Captivate developer, Rod Ward of Infosemantics.com suggests a project size of 995x627.
- If you're a Storyline user, check out the Choosing a Story Size article on the E-Learning Heroes website.
- Check out my YouTube video on project size and screen resolution.
I'd love to hear from you. What is the best project size you've come up with? (Please post your comments below. Let me know who your target end-user is and the eLearning development tool you use.)