Yes! Yes! Yes! Looks do matter…we’re human and we can’t help it. I see too many e-learning courses that look awful. The problem isn’t that people want to build ugly courses it’s just that they don’t know that what they’re building is ugly. As a colleague of mine says, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
In addition to the resources Tom shares here, designers should take time to look around for design inspiration. Look at web sites,magazine ads, billboards and any of the zillion places you can see design in action. Take note of what works and what doesn’t, what you like and don’t like and why.
For me, spending a little time on this aspect of your courses is time well spent.
This reminds me of a Stanford research project about the credibility of web sites. I think these same factors apply to elearning courses as well. One of the six design implications in the study is “Appearances Matter”. Would your courses pass the “credibility test”?