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The overuse of white backgrounds on the web
White backgrounds add to much glare.
lgn




msg:569597
 3:52 am on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Five years ago, everybody was using backgrounds and textures on the web. It now has seem to gone
the other way.

Other than our site, I can find few profesional ecommerce sites that use backgrounds.

We take a background image that is relevent to our site content, and we then wash out (soften the image so we have a good contrast between the background and the text. It also reduces the image size to a mere 6K for a complex pattern.

I myself find a white background, to stark, to much glare. Its boring.

Just because everybody is doing it, does not make it good design.

Any opinions.

 

jdMorgan




msg:569598
 4:34 am on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ign,

I notice that "glare effect" at night when the ambient light decreases and my eyes are tired. As a result of that, I've used very light pastel colors and greys recently, similar to the #fcfcfc and #f5f5f5 colors in the Recent Posts list here at WebmasterWorld - Just enough to take the edge off the glare. I think it helps.

If the site is "strictly corporate" though, I'll stick with white. :(

Jim

europeforvisitors




msg:569599
 7:47 am on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I much prefer a white background to color--and I reading body text that's displayed over an image, even if it's a subtle image.

For what it's worth, READER'S DIGEST and a few other magazines tried a very pale green paper back in the late 1950s or early 1960s on the theory that it would be easier on people's eyes than white paper. The experiment wasn't a success, however; most people preferred (and still prefer) black type on a white background.

chiyo




msg:569600
 9:42 am on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

ever wondered why 99.999% of books, newspapers and magazines are black on white background?

Readability.

OK of course it saved them ink too, which we dont have to worry about!

Back in the bad old days background images were used for the same reason as inline music - because you could.

A very pale washed out image sometimes looks good, and perfectly readable, but you do add to the page load times, and just one extra place where something can go wrong, especially with the growing complexity of reading formats these days - diff browsers, PDA, mobile appliaces etc etc. Plus the resolution of screens sometimes means that nice washed out effect becomes over bearing on some other guy's screen.

Using a slighly off white color seems to ba a great solution to that "glare" problem. In fact one of our popular site has a background of battleship grey. (retro-design - we value our heritage)

We use reverse colors a lot, for say titles and the like and small strings of text where appropriate. but keep them rare for the effect. But black on white..? very sensible to me..

glengara




msg:569601
 9:47 am on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

For text background I've used #FEFDF5, which is the closest I could get to white without the glare.

pendanticist




msg:569602
 9:49 am on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

#ffffff works well.

Pendanticist.

quiet_man




msg:569603
 12:00 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don't mean to sound flippant, but if the glare is causing you problems why don't you simply adjust the brightness setting for your screen or turn up the ambient light in the room?

Nick_W




msg:569604
 12:04 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just because everybody is doing it, does not make it good design.

Actually, people have been doing black on white for about 3000yrs. There's a reason for that: It works! ;)

Nick

DrDoc




msg:569605
 12:04 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Even though there are times when it's better to pick a different color. On one of my sites I'm using a really dark blue (#003) background .. but that's because the theme of the site is stars and galaxies. And I don't do it throughout the whole site, just the entrance pages.

What's wrong with white by the way? I avoid using all white pages .. I think that's ugly. But I restrict myself when it comes to the use of color. Colors should be used to accentuate - not as a base. White (or a pale variation) should be used as the main color (about 67%) .. all the other colors will share the last third.

[edited by: DrDoc at 12:06 pm (utc) on Feb. 1, 2003]

tedster




msg:569606
 12:04 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think the big deal with monitor constrast and glare does happen when we go for PURE white and PURE black. But we almost never have that kind of purity in the physical world.

Newsprint is definitely off-white, and though book paper may be closer, it's certainly not pure white. I think any decent printer would shudder at the idea of a pure, whole spectrum white!

I have half a mind to take a small site that's using #000000 and #ffffff, tweak the css to use slightly less contrasted tones, and then compare a month's worth of logs from each state. Now that would be a good experiment!

aus_dave




msg:569607
 12:07 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'm a white background man - it's one less thing to thing about when coming up with a design concept :).

I don't mind a very light background GIF on a site but I don't use them myself. Don't get me started on textures.... ;)

DrDoc




msg:569608
 12:10 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Now that would be interesting, tedster!
Please do! ;)

fathom




msg:569609
 12:12 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

That's an excellent point quite_man, and I am reminded of a story a while back of a web site ..."for best viewing, stop off at my place and take a look at my monitor".

I have at home a 21" flat screen LCD with "colormatch" but when I go to my workstations at various clients things look alot different.

I prefer bright myself - high contrast - but I am not everyone thus a less glare color on my monitor at home, would be significantly darker elsewhere.

andreasfriedrich




msg:569610
 12:14 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Nick wrote
Actually, people have been doing black on white for about 3000yrs.

But they didnīt bleach the paper/papyros/leather or whatever they were writing on. Personally I like the color of recycled paper very much ;).

So Iīm with tedster on this.

Andreas

DrDoc




msg:569611
 12:21 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

But they didn't bleach ...

"For best viewing experience - please order our ScreenBleach!"

DrDoc




msg:569612
 12:43 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)
Another reason why it's good to use a light color background is for printing purposes.

Consider the following link: http://www.superiching.com/printcolor.htm

I think it speaks for itself :)

lgn




msg:569613
 12:49 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Has anybody compared site statistics after switching from a background image to going with white or off-white.

I find it hard to believe that a 6K background image, is going to lose me that many visitors. After all the image is only loaded once and then cache.

Or are people geting in the frame of mine. Non-White Background = Amateur Site = Less Sales.

andreasfriedrich




msg:569614
 12:51 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Once you have the immortality device the background color wont matter to either you or your printer anyway ;).

HarryM




msg:569615
 1:18 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Anyone remember the old days of early IBM PCs? I could use WordStar for hours without getting eyestrain - a black background with magenta text worked best.

Then came Macs with black on white screens pretending to be printed pages. And then Word followed suit, although fortunately Word gave the option of white on blue for non-believers like me.

It seems we're going the same way with web pages. White, white, white, white, white. The opticians are laughing all the way to the bank.

quiet_man




msg:569616
 1:28 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

I my experience, glare and eyestrain tend to occur after a sustained period of working at a screen. So in terms of glare being a problem for a white-background e-commerce site, surely it would only be an issue if your customers were people who spend all day staring at their screens (webmasters, designers, etc)?

For sites targeting a wider consumer audience, I think there is a danger of a designer creating a site to overcome a problem (glare) that only the designer, and a few other visitors, may experience.

Now as to whether its boring, that's another matter. I see a lot of sites nowadays that use a dark grey font colour (#333) that is a lot easier on the eye than pure black. Which is nice.

tedster




msg:569617
 10:32 am on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, this thread has inspired me to make a change in every program that I can customize. For instance, I changed my Homesite preferences to dark gray text on an off-white background.

Since I practically live in Homesite, I figure that's a very good personal test before I go out and spring this idea on one of my black and white sites. And so far (after about 10 hours or so) I really like the change.

jamesa




msg:569618
 10:58 am on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just because everybody is doing it, does not make it good design.

Good design? Maybe, maybe not. Good idea? Yes. With e-commerce sites I wouldn't stray too far from the norm. I realize I'm opening myself up to a lot of criticism here, but users have come to expect certain range of design styles on ecomm sites, regardless of how boring they may be. A commerce site has the "look" of a commerce site (and that includes white backgrounds). Even with me, I really question the credibility of a commerce site that's too "designy" more often than not.

chiyo




msg:569619
 3:03 pm on Feb 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>Just because everybody is doing it, does not make it good design.<<

But i doubt people are doing it just because everybody else is doing it, and the background color is such a small part of "good design" anyway.

To me "good design" is getting the punters to the ordering page as fast as possible with credit card in hand, and making them want to repeat the experience. Layout and colors and such are only secondary to this.

I really DO doubt that people are put off buying something or coming back to a site because the site has a white background or looks like other sites design wise. Content wise, yes, but design wise? - well content is the main way to brand sites, not design - leave that for the "design" competitions. In fact if you are a new site, the black on whte design may even make them feel more comfortable and trusting.

to me Black on white (or off-black on off-white) looks authoritative - All the world's most authoritative documents are written black on white - the constitution, affadavits, court rulings, the new york times and google.

but heh im drifting into psychology.. leave pale text on dark text to those bloggy thingos, and artsy masterpieces.

HarryM




msg:569620
 1:23 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

to me Black on white (or off-black on off-white) looks authoritative - All the world's most authoritative documents are written black on white - the constitution, affadavits, court rulings, the new york times and google.

I have to agree with Chiyo. Black on white can look crisp and business-like.

However I am aware of the dangers of white backgrounds. At the end of 2001 I spent weeks working on Photoshop with my monitor calibrated so that white was really white. The result an incredible migraine (the first I had had in my life) and the loss of site in my left eye. It was six months before my sight was back to normal.

Even now I find white backgrounds a strain to look at.

joelpcox




msg:569621
 2:01 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Opaque (or washed out, as some are saying) backgound images? Bad, unless they are elimated from the actual body of your pages' content.

Black on slightly off white? Good.

Black on pure white? Ehhh..... a little baren and not too fun too read.

Textures? NO!

Flolondon




msg:569622
 2:30 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think whitespace is needed to give an uplifting affect to the page.

lgn




msg:569623
 2:41 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Black and white is authoritarian and business like.

What if you are selling to somebodies emotion. Im dealing primary with a womens audience, so I am trying to set a mood for buying, and my web page reflects that with a mood setting background.

I wonder if their is a study out their on how men and women respond to web page styles.

chiyo




msg:569624
 2:55 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi lgn.. there are some studies out there on colors and styles and psychology that what have been discussed on WebmasterWorld but cant recall the urls just now. (suggest search for "psychology of color")

By the way, I said "authoritative", not "authoritarian", which is very different!

I agree completely that some sites succeed by appealing to the right brain emotional side. Im not advocating black and white for everything, just countering the argument that "black on white is bad design because its popular" which is the major thrust of this thread.

Of course im not entering into that political minefield of gender differences and stereotyping, but I will say that left-brain sites that have a prime need to project an image of being credible, rational, business like, substantive, objectively informative and trustworthy, a black on white type helps. Pastels may well be better for those sites wishing to engage the right hand side of the brain - targeted at attachment, love, emotion-evoking and subjective committment - may well better to look at pastel shades - dating sites, art sites, fashion sites, personal blogs, opinion sites, sites selling ideas, cosmetics, perfumes, via*gra, artworks, football fan sites etc etc.

Im a great fan of subliminal selling and setting the mood for a highly targeted group who you know well. Make them comfortable by providing familiar points of reference and certainly use the right colors. After all, in the end its all about getting your message noticed right?

Brett_Tabke




msg:569625
 5:42 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

There are few things that fall as far into the annoying category as opague or washed out background images to me. They almost universally spell back button as amatuerish. They often slow down loading and rendering, and scrolling. They also can make reading text very difficult.

Visit Thailand




msg:569626
 5:56 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

We have played around a lot with colours, text background etc to such an extent that one viewer said that the site gave her an headache, and a reviewer described us using 'horendous colours'

So that was quite a while back but what we have learnt is that white is white everywhere. When you use colours that are close to white but not white, you can have very different effects from one computer to another.

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