Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lectora Best Practices Part 3 – Using Text

By Joseph Suarez

This is the third post in a series dedicated to best practices when using the eLearning authoring tool Lectora. Part 1 detailed how to optimize user preferences, and Part 2 went over using actions and variables. Part 3 will be all about text and formatting text in Lectora.

Using Lectora text styles
As mentioned in a previous post, Lectora text styles define the font, color, and size settings for selections of text or entire text blocks, and they automatically update all affected texts when changed. This is both a time saver, and a good way to stay consistent with text formatting throughout a course.

Paste unformatted text  (Ctrl+Shift+V)
It’s common practice to use Microsoft Word or PowerPoint to storyboard an eLearning course. Unfortunately, when you copy text from these programs and paste it into Lectora, extra hidden text formatting is carried with it. This can lead to text formatting problems, especially with bullet points. The simplest way around this is to paste text without any formatting. The universal shortcut for this (though oddly not available in Microsoft Office) is Ctrl+Shift+V.

Underline hyperlinks and only hyperlinks
A common web usability rule that should carry over to Lectora is to only underline text when using hyperlinks. This avoids confusion over what is or is not a hyperlink. As an alternative for emphasis, use bold or italicized text.

Use descriptive alt text on buttons and important images
Ever wonder why when you leave your mouse hovered over an image on a webpage, sometimes a little text tooltip pops up? Those are image alt tags attached to the HTML code. For example:
<img src="exampleImage.jpg" alt="An example image used to demonstrate alt tags">
Whatever is in the quotes after “alt=” will display when a mouse hovers over. In addition, the visually impaired rely on alt tag descriptions to describe what an image conveys or a button does. This also fulfills part of Section 508 compliance where “a text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided.”

In Lectora, whatever an image or button is named (as displayed in the Title Explorer pane) will be converted to its alt tag when published to HTML. Therefore, images that aren’t there just for decorative purposes should have alt tags enabled and named according to what is visually conveyed. Buttons should also be named according to what they do when clicked. For example a next button should not stay named “arrow47right,” but instead named something descriptive like “Go to next page.”

Convert text blocks with uncommon fonts to images
You know that super awesome font you downloaded and want to use in your Lectora course? Well, it’s not that easy. Unless every single computer viewing your course also has that font installed, all the text that used your special font will default back to an ugly Times New Roman.

The best way to ensure fonts display correctly is to stick to web safe fonts. But if for some reason you must use an uncommon font, you can choose to render the text as an image when published. This converts the image to a transparent gif image, but has some minor drawbacks:
•    The text inside can no longer be highlighted or copied.
•    The image should now have a text equivalent for 508 compliance (see above).
•    Being a transparent gif, there will be unintended pixel artifacts around the letters which will show if placed over any non-white background.

In no way has this series been an official or exhaustive list of Lecotra best practices. They are mostly time savers and development practices I’ve picked up from the helpful community of Lectora users and discovered on my own (usually the hard way). Please comment if you have any additional Lectora best practices of your own.

1 comment:

  1. Joseph thanks for an informative piece. But in my opinion, Lectora is a bit outdated. LearnX is more flexible in my opinion. Maybe what we can do is we can use on of the best online survey tools, SoGoSurvey to see what pops up as a universal choice.


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