Thursday, March 22, 2007

Colorblindness - A Usability Guide for Commercial Applications, Part 2

Selecting colors that everyone can see ...

"There are restrictions against colorblind people holding certain positions in our society, but colorblind people sometimes get around those restrictions. Low and no-cost common-sense modifications can be made, and should be made, to reduce the impacts on society from a minor handicap that is often no more than a fashion inconvenience for those afflicted with it.

Colorblind people represent a significant but often neglected talent pool and consumer segment. Ten percent of Caucasian American men but less than one percent of women are estimated to have some form of colorblindness. Identifying opportunities to make products usable by as many people as possible, without degrading overall quality or performance, is a quality assurance function that is not always well understood or practiced.

Part 1 of this two-part series looks at increasing the usability of products and the communication of information. The second part of this guide concludes with an example of potential impacts if colorblindness is ignored.

The Trouble With Blue
The use of blue fonts is widespread, particularly online, where links to other Web pages are usually rendered in blue. Fonts in light shades of blue have the effect of reducing background contrast. The lighter the font, the harder it is for colorblind people to read.

Even subtle changes in blue can have major impacts on the levels of eye strain experienced by even moderately colorblind people. The landing pages of Craigslist.org, for example, are rendered almost entirely in light blue.

Yahoo's online e-mail service relies heavily on blue fonts. However, these fonts are a little darker and often bolder than the blue fonts on Craigslist, making Yahoo more attractive and easier to use.

Displaying Icons
Contrast issues extend to program icons, which are designed with the intention of making them stand out -- especially when used in program start menus, system trays, quick launch bars, desktops and other environments where easily recognized icons may enjoy higher click rates than ones that are difficult to distinguish from background colors.

The reliance on blue backgrounds in graphical user interfaces (GUIs) creates challenges for icon designers who seek to use blue in their icon designs. Blue is the default color scheme in Windows XP and is a popular color scheme in GNU/Linux desktop distributions."    (Continued via Technology News)    [Usability Resources]

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