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Accessibility and Usability Forum

    
Grey Text - It's Everywhere
bumpaw

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 12:13 pm on Aug 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have been wondering why all the light gray text showing up on sites these days. It seems to be everywhere and it has me thinking I missed a usability study somewhere showing that it's better. Some of it is so light that it's hard for me to read.

 

Receptional Andy



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 3:48 pm on Aug 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

This seems to occur when design choices are made without due regard to usability and accessibility - a bit like the very small font sizes some designers prefer because they feel it looks more attractive. I can't help feeling that looking nice is not really the issue if many of your audience will struggle to actually read it comfortably!

I've got pretty good vision, but I do find many sites with poor contrast and/or small fonts to be somewhat painful to use.

For me, it's one good thing to come from the standard 'web 2.0' designs - large fonts.

Marshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 5:08 pm on Aug 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

I noticed both gray and small FIXED HEIGHT text on a lot of sites too. I do not understand why it is becoming popular unless it has something to do with HD monitors. Personally, I too find it hard to read and can only imagine how difficult it is for someone with poor vision or color contrast problems. If you are using gray text, you should check out this accessibility site: [colorfilter.wickline.org...] and see how impaired individualls see it.

Marshall

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 5:10 pm on Aug 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have been wondering why all the light gray text showing up on sites these days.

If its everywhere, maybe some "local color adjustments" are in order?

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 3:16 am on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I noticed both gray and small FIXED HEIGHT text on a lot of sites too. I do not understand why it is becoming popular

One word: Designers

MUST. MAINTAIN. CONTROL. AT. ALL. COSTS.

Marshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 3:49 am on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

MUST. MAINTAIN. CONTROL. AT. ALL. COSTS.

I consider myself a designer (vs "coder") but I keep in mind that the site is there for the benefit of the user, not my ego. I like "control" of the design to a certain degree, but if a visitor needs to resize the font, who am I to deny them the oppotunity. Too many web builders (whether designer or coder) forget this simple fact.

Marshall

vincevincevince

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 4:06 am on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think it is a reflection of multiple levels of interaction in the same way that headings differentiate themselves from the body of a document through size and hence readability.

Designers are looking for a way to denote something less important than the general body text, something like a small hint for a form field or a copyright statement and privacy policy link. The feeling is that because these elements should not command as much attention as the body of the text but yet still should be there for the few users who will refer to them, they should be less emphasised. Washing out the colour and reducing the size is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Also consider that small black text starts to look bad. Small grey text is visually more pleasing.

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 10:34 am on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

the site is there for the benefit of the user, not my ego.

I'm not sure, but this statement may disqualify you from calling yourself a "designer." ;)

I have had some pitched battles with designers to get them to give up even the slightest shred of control.

vincevincevince

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 11:25 am on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure, but this statement may disqualify you from calling yourself a "designer."

He sounds like a true designer, as opposed to an artist.

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 11:55 am on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

Okay, okay. I'll apologize for being snarky. Not nice. I consider myself to be an artist, graphic designer, interaction designer and programmer; all wrapped up in one. I do OK.

The main problem we have had is that graphic designers seem to often have a "Vision" that is so delicate, the slightest deviation from it will destroy the entire thing. It may not be ego, as much as it is insecurity.

Sadly, this type of attitude does not mix well with the Web, where it is all about compromise. Your designs need to be very robust, and stand up to serious abuse and misrepresentation.

You also need to be able to compromise to meet various standards, whether it be accessibility or corporate visual identity. I used to work for a very large company that had an entire rack of 3-inch binders, dedicated only to the use of their logo. Any representation of this logo would need to fit within these guidelines. Artists would regularly throw tantrums when presented with this.

Minimalist, flexible design works best for this type of chaotic environment.

Marshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 12:21 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I consider myself to be an artist, graphic designer, interaction designer and programmer; all wrapped up in one

Except for the programmer part, I consider myself all the same. However, I think the advantage I have, if you want to call it that, is over 30 years of theatrical set design experience. In theater, assuming a proscenium stage, you design assuming the closet audience member is at 30 feet (about 9.5m). BUT!, you also have to consider that person sitting in the last row of the balcony. One venue I design for regularly, that last person is 110 feet away (34m). While the set looks great for the people in the first 20-30 rows, it has to be distinguishable to that person way in the back. That in mind, and while I love detail, the nature of scenic design forces you to compromise. To that end, I see the Internet as a large theatrical production and each site is a set design where I try to focus on the audience member sitting in the middle and allow the rest adjust accordingly.

My advice - be the audience member when you design.

Marshall

[edited by: Marshall at 12:23 pm (utc) on Aug. 31, 2007]

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 12:24 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I see the Internet as a large theatrical production and each site is a set design where I try to focus on the audience member sitting in the middle and let the rest adjust accordingly.

Excellent metaphor!

I consider it a "clown-only" circus at times...

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3437188 posted 1:03 pm on Aug 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

In the same vein, here's an email that I sent a few days ago to someone who asked me if it were tougher for a designer to become a programmer, or vice-versa. I did a bit of redacting:

That's a good question, and one that may not be easily answered. There are left brain/right brain issues involved. It is literally comparing apples to oranges.

I would say that it is tougher for a designer to be a programmer, but look at some of the sites run by the luminaries of the Web, like:

The W3C Posse [w3.org]

Brad Templeton [templetons.com]

Richard Stallman [stallman.org]

You get the drift. These guys don't have aesthetics as a priority.

However, programmers get more money than graphic designers. I think that it is considered a less approachable medium, but good graphic design is every bit as complex as programming. It can get real hairy.

I definitely have more training and particular experience in programming (as opposed to being an HTML jockey) than I do in graphic design. I'm also very good at troubleshooting. This seems to be something at which you are skilled as well.

Being a programmer is, almost by definition, being a troubleshooter. You are given a problem domain, and you craft a structure to address the problem. The same can be said for graphic designers.

Programming, especially Web programming, is very frustrating to graphic designers, because of the tremendous amount of compromise that is required. There are all sorts of unreasonable restrictions and limits. Accessibility and usability impose even more (take, for example, underlined links).

To be fair, experienced industrial designers are used to doing this, but many graphic designers go nuts (I am always fighting with our designer over this kind of crap).

Another problem is that people think Web design is graphic design. It's not. It is industrial design. Designing a Web site is a lot more akin to designing an automotive control panel than it is to designing a yogurt ad.

I think that industrial designers (like Johnathan Ive) are also an amalgam between the two brain hemispheres.


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