Written by:

Mark Aston


September 28, 2021

Articulate Storyline is one of the most popular authoring tools used worldwide to create online learning. We discuss the benefits of using Articulate Storyline, when to use it, and when not to. And while anyone with enough time, knowledge, and money can make an outstanding online course, can you do it on a budget? So, most importantly, we also give you 9 practical ways to make a great course within your budget using Articulate Storyline.

What Is Articulate Storyline?

To create an online course, you need to develop and publish the content and host the course on a technology platform. Many organizations use a learning management system (LMS) to host their courses.  There are, at last count, well over 700 LMS’s on the market, and choosing the right one for you can be a challenge.

While there are many pros and cons and differences between how an LMS functions and what you can do with it, its primary function is to run and administer your course. Most LMS’s also offer tools for you to create your online course content as well. But since the priority purpose of an LMS is to administer your course, very often, these tools to create your content are limited.

That’s where an authoring tool, such as Articulate Storyline, comes in. It’s a cloud-based e-learning authoring tool. It enables instructional designers to create custom interactive courses. Creating the content using an authoring tool can significantly enhance the interactivity of your courses. Articulate Storyline is a very flexible authoring tool. And you can create very engaging experiences for your learners. If you are unfamiliar with Articulate, it’s like PowerPoint on steroids. You can add animation, audio, video, screen recordings, and software simulations to create many user interactions, such as clicking, dragging, and typing as well as quizzes and assessments. Once finished, you then import the course into your LMS.

“Articulate Storyline is the industry’s favorite software for creating interactive courses. It’s simple enough for beginners yet powerful enough for experts. And it lets you create virtually any interaction you can imagine, in minutes.” Articulate Website

Benefits of Using Articulate Storyline

There are numerous benefits of using Articulate Storyline to create your courses. These include

  • Excellent flexibility to control the type of content output
  • Very active online community
  • Many instructional designers are familiar with Articulate Storyline
  • Powerful show me/try me/test me software simulation e-learning capability
  • Highly customized content
  • Extensive design capabilities
  • Flexible templates and design features

Disadvantages of Using Articulate Storyline

  • Although simple to grasp the basics, Articulate Storyline is a complex tool. So, organizations that don’t invest the time in training will find the efficiency of using the tool reduced and the quality of the outcomes limited.
  • Collaboration and content updates can be time-consuming.
  • The price for Articulate is $1,299 USD per user. So, if you have many authors using Articulate, the pricing might become prohibitive.
  • While many instructional designers are familiar with Articulate Storyline, you should look for someone with proven expertise. Fortunately, Articulate awards a small percentage of designers ‘SuperHero’ status. Make sure you look for a firm with someone who has Articulate ‘SuperHero’ status.

When To Use Articulate Storyline?

While there are other authoring tools such as Captivate, Camtasia, Elucidat, and others, Articulate also has other authoring tools such as Rise. But with hundreds of thousands of users, Articulate Storyline is one of the most used authoring tools. And we think with good reason.

If you’ve got the skills and competencies most instructional designers have, Articulate Storyline allows you to author highly customized and engaging content. It’s great for most applications to create online training. And it’s excellent to use if you want to develop some realistic practice.

For example, if you are applying a policy or procedure or following steps in a process. Also, it’s perfect to use if you want to personalize the interactions, say by using the learner’s name and when you want a customized course. And it allows you lots of flexibility to match the brand of your training course to that of your organization. But if you are looking for a course to include software simulations, then Articulate Storyline is a must. It allows you to record what you are doing in a software application and will enable you to output that content in multiple ways from one recording.

While Articulate Storyline is an excellent authoring tool to use in most situations, there are a few situations you wouldn’t want to use it. You might not want to use it if you are inexperienced in its use and only have a straightforward course to create. For example, if you don’t need much interactivity. Such as for a basic employee orientation where you are mostly ‘telling’ the person information. You can use other simpler tools – perhaps Articulate Rise as one example, but there are others too. Also, you may want to be mindful of using it if you have content that updates frequently. Because then you would have to update and re-publish the course for those changes. And while that’s certainly possible, it might become time-consuming.

In essence, though, Articulate Storyline is an excellent authoring tool. And best used by authors with experience using it and in situations where you want highly customizable content.

Practical Ways To Make A Great Articulate Storyline Course Within Your Budget

It’s easy to make a fabulous-looking and engaging course if you have a lot of time and a large budget. But most organizations don’t have an unlimited budget. And most need a course produced within a specified, often short, time. Our clients at Spark + Co. are no exception.

And we’ve gained lots of experience working with clients to create their online learning to meet their objectives, on-time and on budget. So below are 9 tips designed to help you create a great course in Articulate Storyline and stay within your budget.

1.  Ensure Your Articulate Storyline Course Is Instructionally Sound

The most crucial aspect in developing your Articulate Storyline course is that it is rooted in sound instructional design principles. You want a course that meets the learning objectives and is designed with a solid instructional foundation. These include,

  • Managing Cognitive Load: Cognitive load refers to the number of working memory resources a person is using. Information is only stored in long-term memory after first being attended to and processed by working memory. Working memory, however, is extremely limited in both capacity and duration. These limitations will, under some conditions, impede learning. Heavy cognitive load can have adverse effects on task completion. And it’s important to note that the experience of cognitive load is not the same in everyone. The elderly, students and children experience different, and often higher, amounts of cognitive load. So, it’s essential in the instructional design of your Articulate Storyline course that you carefully manage the level of cognitive load.
  • Understanding What’s Needed For Behavioural Change: In many instances, you often try to change someone’s behavior. To do that it’s not as simple as showing them how to do something differently. To succeed, you need to understand the three most essential elements in changing behavior: readiness to change, barriers to change, and the likelihood of relapse. And the instructional design for your Articulate Storyline course needs to include how you will create the conditions to be successful in making the behavioral change your desire.
  • Spaced Repetition: Spaced repetition is a memory technique that involves reviewing and recalling information at optimal spacing intervals until the data is learned at a sufficient level. This technique helps your brain remember information. And it keeps the material fresh in your mind and forces you to use active recall. Spaced repetition is simple in theory but can be challenging to execute because most people tend towards impatience when trying to memorize something new or unfamiliar. However, ensuring you have effectively designed spaced repetition into your Articulate Storyline course is essential for good learning outcomes.
  • Realistic Practice: Research has shown that people engage more actively in learning when they see specific purposes for their training. The more relevant the examples, scenarios, and activities used in your Articulate Storyline course, the better the outcome. Relevance increases the learner’s engagement and results in a higher transference and adoption of the new knowledge or skill.
  • Feedback: Receiving feedback is essential to be able to improve performance. Effective instructional feedback shows learners their current level of performance and lets them know what they need to do to reach a higher level. Fortunately, you can design your course using Articulate Storyline to include a range of opportunities to provide feedback to the learner.

“We all need people who give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Bill Gates

2.  Decide On The Media Production Value Needed For Your Articulate Storyline Course

The quality of the media production value of your Articulate Storyline course can significantly impact your budget for the project. The higher the media production value you desire, the higher your budget will need to be.

But while a very slick and polished course with high-end media production can add value to your class, it’s not always essential. But what is vital is the instructional design (see #1 above) of your course.

It’s far better to create a course that is instructionally sound yet has a moderate or lower media production value to keep within your budget. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of your budget on media production but have a course with poor instructional design.

Below are two examples to illustrate the level of production value. The first is an Articulate Storyline course, called The Flu, What it is, and how to avoid it.

Screen shot of lady behind a blanket with the Flu for an Articulate Storyline course on the flu

This course has a basic media production value. But it is a course that is instructionally well designed. It has a good structure, is linear in design, and has lots of good quizzes. And it includes a pre-test and an option to test out if you pass the pre-test.

Vitalogue, in comparison, has a very high media production level and excellent instructional design.  It uses animations, custom illustrations in a narrative storytelling style. And it’s designed with several branching scenarios. It has a much higher media production value and would require a much larger budget to produce.

Screenshot of animated image from Vitalogue elearning course

3.  Determine The Level Of Interactivity Needed To Fit Your Budget

One of the critical aspects of your online training course is to determine the “level” of interactivity required when you create a course. For most projects at Spark + Co, we use a four-level categorization to assess the level of interactivity of an Articulate Storyline course. This level tells us how complicated the design and development process will be. And what is needed to develop the course to meet the instructional needs. In general, the higher the level of interactivity, the more time-intensive and costly it is to produce.

Graphic of the levels of interactivity of elearning courses

Examples of courses or topics appropriate for each level of interactivity above would include the following:

  • Level 1 – Product information, or primary health information, such as a guide to preventing catching the flu
  • Level 2 – Compliance courses, e.g., privacy and cybersecurity
  • Level 3 – Management skills
  • Level 4 – Very applied skills requiring significant use of role-playing, scenarios, and branching scenarios.  Lifesaver is a great example.

Image of the Liversaver Articulate Storyline course

4.  Take Advantage Of The Articulate Storyline Community And Field Of Experts

One of the benefits of Articulate Storyline and Articulate authoring tools is the extensive community of available experts. Articulate’s E-Learning Heroes Community is an excellent resource. It consists of

  • articles
  • e-books
  • challenges to test your skills
  • e-learning examples
  • tutorials
  • user guides
  • discussion groups, and
  • downloadable templates, assets, storyboards, and shortcuts.

These are produced by both Articulate and the community of instructional designers that use this authoring tool. The weekly challenges are also great ways to see how people are using Articulate Storyline.  Another great resource is Tom Kuhlmann’s blog, which always has great examples, tips, and tricks. Even if you work with an external partner (see tip #9 below), having an idea of “what’s possible” is helpful.

5.  Take A Product Approach To Create Your Articulate Storyline Course

At Spark + Co., when we work with a client, we take a product approach. Rather than create a course, we develop an instructional product. In doing so, there are several additional aspects we consider. And we combine these with more traditional instructional design basics. For example, on the product side, we consider

  • Customer insights
  • Market demand
  • Value proposition
  • Packaging
  • Pricing
  • Positioning
  • Bundling
  • Cross-selling and upsells
  • Network effect

When you create a course, the result isn’t a course that sits on a server somewhere. The end result is the number of people who successfully took your training, had a great experience, and met the learning objectives. You can design the best course in the world, but if there’s no demand for it, or no one finds it, then it’s a waste of effort. So before embarking on designing your course, make sure you consider and understand in detail things such as who your audience is. How are you going to market your course? Are you selling your course and if so for how much? Can you make it a more attractive course to take (even if you’re not selling it) by bundling it with other items that your audience values?

Things you might consider doing could include the following:

  • Keyword research – to identify market demand
  • Customer profile development (using tools such as Value Proposition Canvas)
  • Feature sheets – to better explain the value of your product/course
  • Before building the course, design a landing page sign-up to pre-sell the course and determine demand. You could also include some A/B testing on specific aspects. Such as the title of the course.
  • Identify and test different product bundles with focus groups
  • Create and test pricing strategies
  • Develop a minimum viable product to test with the market, then refine it based on feedback

infographic of instructional product considerations

6.  Ways To Economize On Media Production

If meeting your budget while creating your Articulate Storyline course is a challenge, then there are a few ways that you can economize without significantly affecting the quality of your training. Media production can become an expensive line item, but you can manage it. Below are practical ways to manage the media production budget for your course.

  • Custom graphics– illustrations, icons, characters, backgrounds, and other on-screen elements can start to add up if they are all custom created. One of the ways to manage this cost is to use a marketplace where you purchase parts without paying high customization costs.  There are many places to get free and low-cost assets. Including photos from Pexelspixabay, and Unsplash. Or for icons, the Noun Project and lordicon. Perhaps more important is investing in a style guide to make sure it all works together. The style guide is a way to add polish to your Articulate Storyline course without a high cost.
  • Media creation – videos, audio, motion graphic elements, interactive videos, and other media can add considerable costs to your project. Again, as with graphics, there are degrees of customization that you can do. For example, if you don’t have the budget to create lengthy videos, perhaps you can split up the instruction you were planning. Instead of a 10-minute video costing $10,000 +, perhaps, you create a 1-minute video combined with text with voice-over. Or a one-minute motion graphic animation for under $2000. Again, you’re not compromising the instructional quality and are including interactive elements in your Articulate Storyline course.
  • Consider A Signature Visual Element– Consider creating a signature visual element instead of using lots of custom graphics, icons, or other media. You can use this in high-impact areas, and you can modify it for use throughout your course. For example, the images below were created by us for one of our clients using stock photos. And applying a simple gradient overlay to them. The images create a sophisticated, branded look for a small fraction of the cost of creating custom graphics.

Images of graphics used in PSS elearning course

Image from PSS online course

7.  Re-Purpose Your Assets 

Re-purposing your existing courses, assets, or other materials is a practical way to create an excellent course on a modest budget. For example, we have worked with several clients where we take a recorded webinar and “convert” it to Articulate Storyline for an on-demand course. Not only do you create an instructionally sound product, but it’s a faster turnaround and less expensive than creating a course from scratch. And it allows you to test the training and work out any kinks while having a base product you can iterate and improve on in future versions.

One benefit of Articulate Storyline is that you can publish in many different output types. For example, in video, web, LMS formats. Thinking with an instructional product mindset again, you could re-purpose some course content into a promotional video. And you are helping market and encourage your audience to take the course. Or, instead of using another tool to create videos, you could make an animation.

Also, if you have a course that uses PowerPoint slides, you can re-purpose these by importing them into Articulate Storyline. That way, you can still create a great course, but you have a base to start. And it allows you to reduce the budget or use those funds in another area to enhance the training.

Using Articulate Storyline, if you have a master course, you can easily translate into various other languages if desired. Allowing you to create a suite of courses quickly. And if there are regional or cultural differences, you can modify this rather than starting again from scratch.

8.  Readiness Of Your Content

Over the years, we’ve had clients who have had thousands of pages of content they want to distill down into a short course. And we’ve had clients who have an idea for a course but no content to utilize to create the Articulate Storyline course they want. Both situations entail extra time and will add to the budget of a project.

So, a way to still get a great online course and keep within your budget is to provide good content or resources for training. But prioritize the content so that unnecessary time isn’t spent having the instructional designer troll through lots of excessive documentation. Even if the content doesn’t exist, meet first with your instructional designer to discuss the type of content and resources you can provide them. And decide which subject matter experts will work with the designer to create the content.

If you have an existing course, it’ll probably still need some adaptation or revision to be viable.  And it’s important to understand that content will always need some fine-tuning. Especially content previously designed to be “presented” in-person.  At a minimum, it will require interactive elements to make it instructionally valid for an online audience.

9.  To Hire An Articulate Storyline Expert Or Not?

One of the first questions you want to decide is whether you are hiring an expert instructional designer. Or whether you are going to create your course yourself. While it is possible to get started quickly using Articulate Storyline, there are a few reasons to consider hiring an expert instead.

Firstly, unless you have significant experience in Articulate Storyline, the course you produce will be pretty basic. That might meet your needs, but in many cases, it likely won’t. Secondly, if you create the course yourself (and you’re not experienced with Articulate Storyline), it will most definitely take you a lot longer to complete your project.

There are several reasons why you should seriously consider hiring an experienced instructional designer or firm to create your course, including the following.

  • Your Budget:  Depending on how much value you put on your time, hiring an instructional designer will likely be less expensive than creating the course yourself. The extra time you would take is considerable, so even if you value your timeless than an expert in Articulate Storyline, it’s still likely to be cheaper to hire an expert. And that’s not taking into account that you will also have to purchase the authoring tool ($1,299 USD).
  • Quality of the Instructional Design:  As mentioned above, the most crucial aspect of your course is that it uses core instructional principles. And even though you may be an expert in teaching in-person, creating online learning has its own set of instructional principles to follow.
  • Media Production and Project Management: Most instructional designers will either have good media production skills or experts they rely on to produce quality media for your course. These experts could include narrators, videographers, animations artists, writers, amongst others. Do you want to coordinate all these resources? A key part of the creation of any Articulate Storyline course is project management. You want the course produced on time and budget. That includes managing LMS and IT issues and working with subject matter experts. An experienced instructional designer will have skills and knowledge in all these areas to bring to the project.

Lastly, if, like most people, you do hire an expert or company to create the Articulate Storyline course with you, make sure you hire someone with significant expertise. Fortunately, Articulate helps you by giving a tiny percentage of users the honor of being ‘Articulate Super-Heroes’. Make sure you hire one of these.

If you want extra help, check out this series of articles:


Articulate Storyline – 9 Practical Ways To Make A Great Course Within Your Budget – The Final Word

Articulate Storyline is a great tool best used by authors with experience using it. But you still need to ensure that your training project is completed on time and within budget.  And that it delivers the quality learning your intended users deserve. Now you have 9 practical ways to make sure you produce a fantastic course using Articulate Storyline within your budget.


Spark + Co has worked with over 60 clients since Picture of Holly MacDonald Articulate Storyline superhero2007 providing custom e-learning courses. And helping businesses, non-profits, and government agencies to achieve their training goals.  If you need some expert help, from an Articulate SuperHero, setup a complimentary consultation with Holly, or get in touch via email now.