DesignPLUS is a toolbar from Cidi Labs(link is external) that allows instructors to create highly customizable and accessible pages that can be used for assignments, content, and course homepages.

When you make use of DesignPLUS to create a homepage, you can go beyond text and images. Check out the DesignPLUS showcase(link is external) to see how other institutions have made use of the sidebar for their online courses. For examples from UIS faculty and staff, see the Sample Canvas Course Designs by Dr. Brian Chen, Public Health.

According to Ghai & Tandon(link is external), "visually pleasing designs can enhance usability, credibility, user satisfaction, and trustworthiness . . ." (2022). Learn more about the research that supports the use of course design and home pages to improve student learning outcomes.

Enabling DesignPLUS in Canvas

Design Plus sidebar
  1. Go to a page and click the "Edit" button.
  2. Open the DesignPLUS toolbar with the keyboard shortcut:
    • Windows: Alt + Shift + D
    • Mac: Option + Shift + D
  3. If you do not want to use the keyboard shortcut every time, you can click on the kebab menu on the DesignPLUS toolbar and choose "User Settings."
    • Choose whether you want the DesignPLUS toolbar to always launch (first option) or whether you want the button to appear when editing a page (second option).

DesignPLUS Training

View the DesignPLUS training videos to get started. The DesignPLUS User Guide also provides step-by-step instructions for creating content. Contact COLRS to set up a Canvas course sandbox for you to practice in.

Examples of Content with DesignPLUS

Home Page

On the home page, DesignPLUS allows you to add icons and images that will break up content and make your online course warm and welcoming.

screen shot of a course home page without design plus
Home page without formatting
screenshot of a course home page designed using design plus
Home page formatted with DesignPLUS


The formatting features in Canvas without DesignPLUS are somewhat limited. DesignPLUS allows you to break up your content while still making use of accessibility features.

screenshot of syllabus without design plus
Without DesignPLUS (see the full page no formatting screenshot for more detail)
screenshot of syllabus with design plus formatting
With DesignPLUS (see the full page DesignPLUS screenshot for more detail)


Depending on how much content you have on a page in Canvas, it can be really overwhelming for students and harder to keep track of where they are in the lesson.

Without DesignPLUS

screen shot of page without design plus formatting

With DesignPLUS

With DesignPLUS Accordion

With DesignPLUS Tabs

How COLRS Can Help

An example of editor only instructions in Canvas when using DesignPLUS