Kate was kind enough to send me a color theory article she found today. Through the references section, I found this sweet WCAG 2.0 Contrast Ratio Tool by Lea Verou. I can now test all of the color combinations in our UI, including opacity! Whoop! (Also see Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, aka WCAG.)
Also, while we are not focusing on accessibility for color blind students for the first iteration of our design, this Coblis online color blindness simulator is a good tool for checking overall contrast. Whereas the Contrast Ratio above gives precise analysis for two colors, Coblis lets you view an image of your entire page under various lenses (see render of Red-Weak/Protanomaly mode below).
WITH THE MIND IN MIND
Out of all the UI documents I’ve found so far, I’m enjoying Designing with the Mind in Mind, by Jeff Johnson the most. His concise, simple explanations encompass cognitive psychology, accessibility implications of language and color, Gestalt principles of visual perception, data structure, visual hierarchy, error messages and more—each with background research and specific implications for website user interface design. Jackpot. This book led me to create a Task Analysis and Conceptual Model for our project, which has helped me think about it in more user-centered terms.
FOR THE FUTURE
As for tools that I want to look into in the future, I was talking to Alex last night and he informed me of some tools the VRAC uses regularly, namely cmake.org, www.qt.io, and openscenegraph.org. Good stuff to look into as a designer.