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UI Design for Via

Showcase "Add Content" Page: Solving Accessibility Issues in the User Interface

Watermark Insights

by Julia E. Durall
Title Page for Data Integration Project


Watermark Insights, an Ed Tech SaaS company, purchased a product called "Via" (pronounced VEE-ah), which was not compliant with current accessibility standards. Not meeting these standards was affecting sales of the product, so this update was a high priority. The existing color palette clashed with Watermark's corporate branding, as well.

I was tasked with updating the visual design and user interface with the Watermark color palette using the Watermark Design System components. Watermark’s branding had already established a WCAG 2.1 accessible color palette for most components; however, there were some features unique to Via which needed additional colors and UI elements.

The overall project was to update the entire product with mockups for nearly every screen, but my focus here is just one of the portions that I worked on which required additional design outside of the Watermark Design System.

My role: UI Designer

Goal: Update user interface of acquired product to match Watermark branding and meet WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

Users: Higher education students, faculty, and administrators for the purposes of creating a portfolio of work

Tools: Sketch, Abstract, WebAIM contrast checker, and Slack

- Current design pattern did not meet Accessibility requirements
- Watermark Design System did not yet include components for this content area

Assessing the Current State

Original Via Screen

The “Add Content” page of the Showcase portion of the app, had multiple issues affecting accessibility - such as icons, colors, dashed lines, and interactive elements - that weren’t part of the existing Watermark Design System.

I broke the updates into groups to make things easier on both myself and the development team:
- Navigation
- Buttons and icons
- Title and content block, including column borders
- Columns Selector bar
- “Delete” workflow

Updated Designs

Global changes that were made included the following:
- Updated the font from Lato to Inter
- Changed shades of orange and blue to shades of purple
- Darkened the gray that was used for text and borders to increase the contrast with the background
- Buttons were converted to the standard Watermark buttons
- Changed icon color to purple, and added two new ones.

See below for examples of the updates for each of the sections that make up the Showcase page, as preseented to the development team:
(Click to enlarge)

Showcase Add Columns Iterations

Design Iterations & Testing for Accessibility

I performed multiple tests for both contrast ratios and color-blindness issues using the WebAIM online tool and the Stark plugin for Sketch. A constant challenge was that color combinations might have a proper contrast ratio but not pass a color-blindness test. Or, the colorblind rendering might no longer be contrast-compliant. In areas where the colors were too similar, we were able to use patterns and/or line weight to distinguish between them.
(Click to enlarge)

Showcase Iterations and Testing

Project Summary

Details and consistency matter when it comes to accessibility. In order to make sure the entire flow worked, checking the colors, contrast levels, and line thicknesses needed to be done several times for each element. I also learned that validation needs to be done within the context of the whole design system, not just in the immediate surroundings of an element.

See below for a before and after view of the Showcase - Add Content screen updates:
(Click to enlarge)

Showcase Page before and after updates