I designed a platform that makes podcasts more accessible for the hard-of-hearing and neurodivergent communities.
I originally designed WaveForm back in 2021, but recently revisited it and created a new-and-improved design. Click here to scroll down to the update!


I’ve been an avid listener of podcasts for years. Every week, I listen to my saved shows and walk away with new perspectives, greater knowledge, and a lot of laughs. Over time, though, I started to notice the growing gap in accessibility in the world of podcasting.

Very few shows provide resources for people who are hard-of-hearing or have trouble focusing on audio-only content. Even transcripts, the bare minimum for audio accessibility, are hard to come by.

Popular podcasting apps like Spotify and Apple Podcasts do not offer the functionality to use these resources, leading listeners to search for it elsewhere. Oftentimes, these resources aren't even available anywhere.

Additionally, fluctuating audio levels from podcast to podcast can make it difficult for some to understand what they’re listening to.

For the final project in my college design course in the fall of 2021, I explored a potential solution to bridge this gap and enhance the podcast experience for differently-abled listeners.


To understand the perspectives of those most affected by accessibility issues, I conducted three listening sessions with fellow UNC students. Two students had ADHD, with one being a regular podcast listener, and another having difficulty focusing on audio-only content.

I used a long-form, conversational approach in my interviews to gain as much insight as possible within the limited timeframe I had. Through these discussions, I was able to create two personas to organize my findings.

Ideating and Wireframing

With these insights, I knew I wasn’t alone in my concerns about podcast accessibility.

A lack of regulation in audio quality from podcast to podcast, coupled with limited accessibility options for the hard-of-hearing community, posed significant barriers. These obstacles were impeding the potential enrichment podcasts could offer to these often overlooked demographics.

I started brainstorming ideas for eliminating these obstacles, sketched them out, and then created wireframes in Whimsical.

I drew inspiration from popular podcast-listening apps like Spotify and Apple Podcasts, especially their industry-standard player and navigation components. However, what sets WaveForm apart are the added accessibility features within these elements, such as the accessibility tags in the Search function and the live captions within the Player.
I used these wireframes as the framework for my first prototype, giving the app a cohesive and accessible identity.
Inspired by Apple’s “Universal Access” icon, WaveForm's logo symbolizes the app's goal to boost accessibility for listeners.
I wanted all text on the app to be clear, friendly, and easy to read, and used a combination of Nunito and Nunito Sans to achieve that.
WaveForm's color palette uses high contrast and subdued tones, removing visual obstacles and prioritizing an easy experience.
Click below to take a closer look at the first prototype.

Testing & Iterating

I was able to test this prototype with three users on UserTesting.com.

All three users appreciated the app's concept. One user even mentioned they would "definitely use this if it was real." Regarding the app's appearance, two users appreciated the design's "simplicity" and found it to be "eye-catching". However, one user found it to be "a bit gloomy" and not engaging enough.

The users also liked the app's navigation and core features, especially the live captions and integrated transcripts. Two users completed their tasks without any issues, but one user took an unexpected path to complete the first task and hit a dead-end due to a panel that I hadn’t set up properly.

This feedback led me to closely examine the edge cases for each panel and enhance the connections between interactive elements. I also adjusted some visual and material aspects of the design to brighten things up and maintain consistency.

The (First) Solution

The final design improved connectivity between the various features of the app, and addressed the complaints about the appearance by adding visual accents to key areas of the interface.

I also created a few screens for the Creators side of the app, providing a framework for how podcasters could utilize the app to create more accessible content.

Click here to see the design in action!

Re-visiting an old favorite.

I recently discovered that the original file for WaveForm is corrupted and no longer accessible. In trying to figure out how to fix this, I realized this was a prime opportunity to build something even better.

My design skills have grown a lot since the initia WaveForm design I made back in 2021, as has my knowledge of best practices for inclusive and accessible design. Being able to bring this design back to life while showcasing my evolved skillset was a really exciting prospect, so I decided to take the plunge!

Back to the drawing board.

I started by setting goals that I wanted to achieve with this redesign, rather than diving headfirst into replicating the original layouts.


Audit the original design's accessibility.

This meant more than simply double-checking color contrast levels. I wanted to see how the original features I designed for WaveForm had held up over time.

Then, I wanted to adjust accordingly to improve the app's usability and flexibility.

Use a design system.

I’ve been learning a lot about design systems recently, and while I’ve interacted with them plenty of times, I’ve never actually made one.

I saw this as the perfect opportunity to create and apply elements of a design system, especially with the added flexibility of Figma's component libraries.

After taking a deeper look at the original design, I knew I needed to reduce the app's reliance on podcast creators to supply content for captions and transcripts. This was something I had started to explore with the “Creators” pages in the original prototype.

In retrospect, this would mean that the app's core functionality would rely on the creators' proactiveness rather than on the platform's capabilities.

Knowing now this likely wouldn't scale well in the real world, I scrapped the "Creators" idea, and decided to augment WaveForm's caption and transcript features to be AI-powered, much like Otter.ai and other voice transcription apps.

I then developed the basis for WaveForm's design system. I built out a library of foundational elements (fonts, colors, icons from Google's Material Design system) and components (buttons, tabs, sliders) to reduce irregularities in the updated design.

Establishing the component library ended up being way more helpful than a simple style guide. It sped up my workflow and made it easier to keep track of design details across all screens.

A new-and-improved WaveForm.

With this redesign, I improved the core features that differentiate WaveForm from other podcast platforms out there, while refining the overall interface.

Scroll to see some before-and-after comparisons, and to click through the prototype.

What I've Learned.

I loved every moment I spent working on this redesign. WaveForm's always held a special place in my heart, and I'm glad I was able to breathe some new life into it.

It reminded me that our understanding of accessibility as an industry is evolving - and that needs to keep happening.

As designers, it's our responsibility to explore the different ways that people can use our products, and adapt our methods to empower those people.

I also now understand why design systems and component libraries are so important. By enhancing both the uniformity of the product and the process behind it, they allow us to spend less time focusing on pixels and more time making better designs.

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to check out the rest of my portfolio.



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