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Contrast Rebellion – to hell with unreadable, low-contrast texts

Hacker News - Thu Apr 8 17:30

Look at these websites. They look fabulous indeed but how good is that
if people can't read them?

Look at these examples (there's an alarming number of them):

Why does readability matter?

Because a website's content is
primarily there to be read.

Don't give your visitors a headache only because gray or any other low-contrast font color looked better on the design comps than black.

Remember:

Wait, why are there low-contrast sites then?

Because sometimes we only think about aesthetics

Clearly, aesthetics are important but aren't the ultimate goal of design. And often poor readability doesn't get noticed during the design process, as we are not like our users. We don't read the texts as a visitor does.

When making

the contrast of

the text lower

and lower...

designers need
to think of

elderly users
with bad vision

So should we ditch aesthetics?

Wait, contrasty dark text
can look equally good:

(apart from being a blessing to users who are actually
interested in what you'd like to say)

Ok-ok, but isn't it just your opinion?

Glad you asked.
No, it's not just our opinion.

  • W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines set the minimum contrast between text and its background so that it can be read by people with moderately low vision (which is quite common).
  • A readability experiment conducted on web pages shows the importance of sufficient contrast between the text and the background.
  • Another experiment confirms that reading time is lower when there's high contrast between the text and the background. What's more, contrast sensitivity declines with age. Also, see more papers on readability.
  • Connie Birdsall from Lippincott says that "Ensuring print legibility presents a creative challenge to the design community and prompts us to re-examine what we do. It also reminds us to keep audience needs top of mind when we design."
  • Usability expert Jakob Nielsen has shown many, many times that reading on the computer screen is harder than reading printed material even without making the font illegible. And mobile is worse.
  • .. and many have written about why gray text is a crime here and here...

So what we're trying to say is...