Hello! I'm Phil and I'm a Product Manager at Airtable. I'm excited to let you know about some visual design updates we've made across the Airtable product (which some eagle-eyed members of the community may have already noticed!)
We released a number of visual updates in the last day with the goal of making it easier and more intuitive for you to build powerful apps that are not only delightful to use but impactful as well. Most of these changes have rolled out in the last day, and here's a summary of what's changed visually:
The updates to colors are notable, and I want to highlight why we've made these changes. We adjusted our colors because many of the existing colors are considered "inaccessible" when text is displayed on top of them. This means customers with visual impairments may not be able to read the text. Our updated colors help those customers better use apps built on Airtable, make Airtable a more inclusive product, and position Airtable well to meet important accessibility standards in the future.
We hope these changes improve your overall Airtable experience and make it easier for everyone on your team to use your apps. Thank you for working with us to build better experiences together. If you have any questions or general feedback, let the team and I know here! We're eager to know what you think.
Update (February 23rd) Hi everyone, we’d like to thank you for your thoughtful responses to our visual design updates. Among the feedback, we heard concerns about some of the changes and we’re using your feedback to improve the experience further. We've tested the accessibility of our colors, and will continue to carefully and extensively test colors to strike an optimal balance between contrast and vibrancy. Like you, we care deeply about our product and strive to design a better experience for everyone. We’ll keep you posted on updates and share more information in the coming weeks.
Our team is absolutely mortified by this change. Our "Orange Airtable," as we would lovingly call it colloquially, was one of the core pinnacles of our operations, and a joy to use... and now our only choices are Depressed Carrot or Puke Yellow, with it defaulting to Puke Yellow?! We're lucky we weren't sharing any now-Puke-Yellow embeds or Interfaces with clients, which would have negatively impacted our brand identity in a massive way. Depressed Carrot is the best we can do now, but make no mistake, it won't be nearly as joyful and sunny for our team to wake up to.
We had trusted Airtable for an ability to create experiences that are consistent with our brands, both for internal and external-facing tools - even if the color palette had been limited, we could rely on its predictable ability to bring joy to our users. There's been a lot of trust lost with this change, and I hope that we're at least given the escape hatch of legacy colors to be able to repair the damage.
As someone who is color deficient, I can say that it's always been hard for me to tell the difference between some of the colors - so the change didn't really effect me anymore than usual. **hover labels for colors please**
I will say that I LOVE the better icons used on the views. It was really hard to tell the difference between the Timeline and Gantt views. It was the first thing I noticed when I logged in to my bases. Great job to the team on the updates.
Sorry to pile on with everyone else, but just want to share my overall disappointment with this update. Forcing us to change the colors is definitely an odd choice, as opposed to giving us more to choose from, it was a huge visual shift overall.
My biggest gripes are the new icons, which are much harder to distinguish from each other due to their thin lines; they don't feel crisp or clear at all, and despite having used Airtable for 6+ years now, I found myself having to double check the field type several times. The design feels very weak and deja-vu in other platforms, almost like this came from an attempt to align with other competitors, as opposed to being clearly set apart.
“My biggest gripes are the new icons, which are much harder to distinguish from each other due to their thin lines; they don't feel crisp or clear at all, and despite having used Airtable for 6+ years now, I found myself having to double check the field type several times.”
This is such a great point!
The new field type icons are impossible to see, but even worse, they are impossible to distinguish from each other.
For example, can anybody even tell the difference between multi-select fields and linked record fields anymore?
@Phil_Rose, I am very upset that you & your team have made Airtable so unusable.
Maybe airtable could explain why they change the icons
There is a rational reason.
My big concern is that it's a global release...
So I don't think they see a roolback as an option...
At least for the horrible homepage 2.0 where interfaces and bases look the same... The release is partial and they can rollback.
Please work on real issues, like the impossibility to prefill creation form in records view interface (especially a " link to" field with the current record).
I am not sure airtable employees are still airtable users...
If this change really did make accessibility for color blind people worse, that's a problem.
But presuming they tested for that, I really wish we could all be a bit less hyperbolic about changes like this. If all Airtable hears from this community is "OMG THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER!" every time they do something slightly off-putting, or even just different, they're just going to tune us out.
In the end, they're visually simplifying the UI to keep it feeling lightweight and approachable. It's a laudable goal. Maybe the aesthetics aren't everyone's cup of tea -- I don't mind it personally -- but it's not the end of the world and I bet most people will find they're used to it quickly.
"I am not sure airtable employees are still airtable users... "
They never were. And they obviously don't care with this being example 101 of bad decissions. Democratize software means nothing anymore. Everything is aimed for Enterprise user and the request those users make.
The formatting of the design updates over the past few months have worked well on all our devices and for sure have simplified the user experience and mobile is getting much better. Great job there. Things are feeling much less bulky - the updated menus, tab sizing, view icons - there are really some great changes here.
The base colors are odd and feel like we accidentally installed an older version of the same software. The colors are glaringly "Heavy"; particularly when inside a base.
Combine the new base colors, looming at the top, with all the icon and selection colors inside a base having been muted and desaturated there seems to be a large visual weight issue. Our team has actually started setting the top of the Airtable app off-screen to reduce its visual weight.
In trying to put it in words the color scheme seems opposite of what would be wanted. The data inside the base seems like it should have bold differentiation and the base color would call for more subtle color "guidance".
The ever-so-subtle decrease in vibrancy in the "Single Select" fields is challenging.
Looking at each color individually they are very nice choices and the text and BG combo are pleasing and more cohesive. But when placed in a database next to hundreds of other entries their consistency and sharper text for some reason makes it harder to know what to look at.
It's a very small change. Going from having the text share some of the BG colors to now all being the same unified color makes the text stand out more, but so much so that my eyes seem to not know what to look at, the color or the text. It's hard to explain, but it does not feel very intuitive anymore.
I looked into the applicable W3C Accessibility Guidelines for background color. I'm not an expert in this area, but there's something called a Success Criterion that seems to have motivated some of the changes:
The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, except for the following: Large Text Large-scale text and images of large-scale text have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1; Incidental Text or images of text that are part of an inactive user interface component...
Here are 3 versions of the color scheme for an example Green Base: Original, Current and a middle ground variation (MID). Each version shows the contrast ratio of white text over the color:
The new scheme passes the 4.5:1 ratio and then some. But by my reading, the Upper header, at least, could keep the old green which passes the 3:1 ratio test. The upper header contains: Large text (Untiled Base), and Incidental Text (Inactive - Automations, Interfaces). Data text is backed by the darker color. The History and Help elements could be re-designed to add some darker backing as well. Viola. Criterion achieved.
I'm probably missing some valid complications, but it just seems like dropping the old color scheme may have been overkill.
There are Chrome extensions out there to fix accessibility issues exactly like this, although some configuration and css knowledge are needed to set everything up. Just tried one out and it worked well for calendar record field and base header colors.
This does require giving a browser extension permissions to read/edit web pages though, so use at your own risk.
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