Visual design in software simulations


Planning the visual design of software simulations is an important step. Not only is visual design crucial for making a software simulation look professional, it is also functional. Good visual design focuses the learner’s attention on key areas of the software screen. This avoids learner frustration of getting lost on a screen due to not knowing which parts to attend to.

You can focus a learners attention on an aspect of a screen through several methods. You can grey out or blur the parts of the screen that are not the focus. This helps to limit information so the learners are focused on particular parts of the screen yet they don’t lose the overall context.

PNG grey screen

You can also use call out boxes that point to the relevant part of the screen, mouse movement to direct attention, zoom in and out, or simply highlight the area you want the learner to attend to.


It’s possible not all of these methods will be available to you on your screen capture tool. The important thing is to choose a couple of methods and then use them consistently in your software simulation. By being consistent in your visual design the patterns will become predictable for the learner. They can then focus on learning the content rather than working out how the software simulation works.

You can also use different tools to blend the visual design. For example, I have used Adobe Captivate 7 with images modified in Snagit to create a nice greyed out effect. Using both of these tools together created an effective visual effect that was quick and easy to produce.

Be consistent in your visual design by using the same colour themes and techniques throughout your software simulations. If you are doing several simulations on a software system, use the same visual design through in all of them so it’s predictable for the learner and easy to follow.

If you liked this post, you may also find these other posts useful:

5 things to avoid when creating software simulations

Software simulations – is it all button pushing?

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