Re: Colors On Web Pages

  • From: "Will Pearson" <will@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 00:11:50 -0000


I don't think that there are any generic rules for colour choice that fit all purposes. The best thing to do is to base the design of something on how you expect people to interact with it and how those people function.

I agree that black on white is a reasonable choice for reading ease; however, if people are going to be looking at something for a long time then pure white, which can be very bright, can cause a lot of glare and actually reduce reading ease. So, using something just off white might be more appropriate if someone is expected to look at something for a while.

If ease of navigation around the screen is a priority then I would actually encourage blocks of colour. For example, having the background for a menu one colour, the background for the main content another colour, and so on. Unifying content to form a perceptual block by giving the content the same background colour will enable someone to shift their attention to another block of content faster and easier. There is research evidence that people shift their attention based on perceptual groups.

So, I would say that you need to choose colours based on the task that someone is performing and how you expect them to perform that task. You'll probably get an artist saying different but then it's still an open question as to whether form or function has greater importance. I guess I'm pretty biased in favour of function given I'm a human factors researcher, and I spend most of my days thinking about how to make novel user interfaces easier to use.

----- Original Message ----- From: <james.homme@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 1:25 PM
Subject: Re: Colors On Web Pages

I ran this by a usability person here. Her comments are above the original

I would say it's an accurate description of the meaning and mood of the
colors he describes.
But I don't really agree with the advice of using colored text or a colored
background for Web site design. From a usability perspective, the high
contrast of black text on a white background is the
best choice. Most sites use color in images, borders, and for some headings
and link text - but typically the main content of the page is black on
white. Another choice is to have a background
color on the sides, and a center section (about 2/3 of the page) that's
white with black text.
Of course, there are beautiful and easy-to-read sites that use a variety of colored backgrounds, text, and images. But, that is not something that most
sighted people can achieve. Typically, to do
a good job with visual design, you need an artist or graphic designer.
That's my 2 cents!

The first thing to ask is what kind of website are you trying to make.
kind of website you are trying to put out to the people needs to be a
determining factor because you wouldn't want a banking website to have a
background with brite green text.  Why you might ask?  Because when people
are visiting a banking website a rule of advertising for them is they want
to come across as secure and stable.  So for that most of them will just
the standard black text on a white background.  I am going to try to help
associating a color with a mood and see if that helps.
red= A color that is for fun things, like a clown's red nose, a red ball.
blue = the color of the sky or ocean. Think of how you feel when you visit
either but keep in mind that when in the water although sighted people can
see underwater it is a bit hard to see unless you have a mask.
green = an earthen color, the color of grass, trees etc.  Green text
doesn't work unless you have a dark dark background color.  Also for mixed
colors like green, blue and yellow make green, it is always a good idea not
to use either color that make up a certain color with the color that they
make.  For example you would not want to have green text on a yellow
background.  That would make things a bit hard to see.  You could however
have yellow text on a blue background.  Why you might ask?  Because it is
also another rule of thumb to have either a dark color as a background and
light color as text or vice versa.
Yellow = it is the color of the sun, many times it can be very bright,
times rather soothing to the eyes again depending on the time of day, and
its background. You can use yellow as a background color quite effectively with black text if it is a light but not too bright yellow background. Why
you might ask, just associate yellow as day and black as night.  So yes,
yellow text on a black background will also work.
black= well for some of us black is probably pretty self explanatory.
means no light can pass through.  A black background can be used if
contrasted with a bright color such as yellow, green, red, orange.  To
understand black you have to also understand the mood associated with it.
To some black is scary, to some black is also a mysterious color. You must
also understand black in the way that it works in the sense of a computer
monitor.  All televisions and monitors work off of the same principal.
There are 3 colors that can make every color that is visible on a screen.
Red, green and blue.  The description of how the aliens could see in HG
Wells' War of the Worlds still amazes me considering when the book was
actually written.  Basically what you have with red green and blue are
colors that can make any other color when mixed together with varying
brightnesses.  Now back to the black, black on a computer monitor is
produced when you drop the brightness of all three colors down to zero.


James D Homme, , Usability Engineering, Highmark Inc.,
james.homme@xxxxxxxxxxxx, 412-544-1810

"Never doubt that a thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the
world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead

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