Macmillan Case Study

Converting Complex Flash Based eLearning Courses to HTML5

Macmillan le chateliers interative

My role | March 2018-July 2018

  • UX design
  • Prototypes
  • Final visual design


  • Kelly Lancaster, Product Manager
  • Jose Gomez, Developer
  • Damien Brockmann, Developer
  • Jerry Lee, Developer
  • Jeff Sims, Developer
  • Quinn Kahus-Saccio, Design
  • Erin Randall, Scrum Master

Macmillan is a publisher undertaking a multi-year effort to integrate new products and older acquisitions into a consolidated tech platform with a unified design language. On these projects, I worked on:

  • Performing user testing
  • Designing high-fidelity mockups


Complex Adobe Flash chemistry interactive features would not work once web browsers fully phased out support for Flash. Redesigned chemistry interactives needed to be accessible, responsive, and integrate into the design of a new Macmillan tech platform.

Each interactive feature was a game-based or game-like activity that needed to be adapted to be mobile compatible and meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) AAA accessibility standards.

Also, Macmillan's e-learning platform (LMS) needed rules for determining how much screen space to allow these interactive features when embedded into other materials or if they should be displayed at all.

Old chemistry interactive

This legacy interactive(above) had color-contrast issues and insufficient touch target size for controls.

Old chemistry interactive with drag and drop

This interactive (above) uses drag and drop, which is a complex accessibility challenge.

Metabolic map image viewer

The visual synthesis map displayed an illustration in an image tile viewer program that was outdated and not touch-friendly or accessible.


We could approach the problem in a reductionist way and redesign each interactive component individually. Or we could solve the problem more holistically and redesign the container's behavior where these components were embedded.

In the end, we decided to do both. At the component level, I redesigned a chemistry interactive that teaches Le Chatelier's Principle. At the container level, I designed two different solutions. The first was "Graceful Degradation," adding a warning to the learner and allowing them to choose how to proceed. The second was creating an alternate text-based experience that would be accessible and mobile-friendly. I designed, prototyped, and user-tested four prototypes for this project:

  • Le Chatelier's Principle interactive
  • Metabolic Map interactive
  • "Choose your own adventure" interactive
  • "Graceful degradation" strategy

Exploration and Iteration

Le Catelier's Principle interactive old / new

I redesigned Le Chatelier's Principle interactive to enhance color contrast and provide tap-friendly buttons and sliders that learners can manipulate, even with screen readers. Aria text allows the screen reader to read aloud that the experiment's status has changed for learners who cannot readily perceive the visuals. I designed three breakpoints for this interactive.

Le Catelier's Principle interactive  showing animation

Motion study (above) showing how particles would animate. CSS breakpoints would hide the animation on the narrowest screens.

Conductivity interactive old / new

The Choose Your Own Adventure strategy provides a link underneath each interactive that offers a text-based version of the game. Each step of the scenario begins with text descriptions of the visual content. The learner chooses to manipulate the experimental objects by tapping or clicking an option link underneath each step. Text-based experiments are both mobile-friendly and more accessible than the legacy content was.

Conductivity interactive old / new

The graceful degradation prototype shows how a semi-transparent overlay with a "simulation button" would float over the legacy content. Tapping on the content on a device that cannot display it would allow the learner to choose between trying it anyway or watching a video. For each of the simulations treated in this way, a content expert would create a voice-over for a screen capture video of a learner performing the virtual experiment. Macmillan could add closed captions to this video to enhance accessibility. The voice-over would describe the visual content, how it is changing, and why.

New metabolic map

I redesigned the Metabolic Map with a tap-friendly menu and navigation buttons. New menus and sliders are HTML5 based, and learners can manipulate the menus and controls using a screen reader. I also increased color contrast and readability to enhance accessibility.


I performed Zoom-based user interviews with college students on each interactive. We would allow each learner to play around with the interactive to observe their organic behaviors. Then we would ask them direct questions to assess their understanding. In each test, we wanted to know:

  • Can learners find all the controls?
  • Do learners understand the controls?
  • Does the interactive still teach the concept?

After each user test, I turned insights into new designs and tested the new UI with new learners.


Results and what I learned:

  1. It can be challenging to condense college-level science concepts into palatable chunks that can work well on mobile.
  2. Technical and budget constraints were challenging, but I still advocated for what I believed was essential to improving the user experience.

Chemistry interactive prototypes:

Le Chatelier’s Principle Mobile Breakpoint: Invision Prototype
Le Chatelier’s Principle Tablet Breakpoint: Invision Prototype
Metabolic Map Prototype: Invision Prototype

Holistic solution prototypes:

Choose your own adventure prototype: Invision Prototype
“Graceful Degradation” Prototype: Framer.js Prototype

#ui #interaction #accessibility #web_app