Something I hate – warning, rant approaching.

A pet hate

I have eyesight problems. Apart from needing reading glasses this doesn’t usually cause me any angst or bother. However, I find it almost impossible to read text that is not in strong contrast to its background. Over the last few months I have lost patience with grey on white, dark brown on very deep cream, and, worst of all, white on yellow or pale blue. Yesterday I gave up with some white on light green. At best, it’s a strain, and at worst, it makes the thing unreadable. The header pic shows an example, currently in my fridge.

Sometimes I can just play with the text, bolding it, enlarging it, or altering the colour. That works most of the time online. Sadly, it isn’t an option in the kitchen, where I found myself trying to read cooking times in the aforementioned white on yellow on a packet. Even a strong magnifying glass didn’t help.

Why do manufacturers and website designers do it? Sometimes, I suppose, it might look pretty, though I’d have thought the benefits of the consumer or potential consumer being able to read the text would outweigh merely decorative issues.

I can only suppose that ‘they’ are all people with perfect vision, and that their families and significant others (and colleagues) share their good fortune. Or perhaps they use spectacles but have never found contrast to be a problem.

A friend’s blog turned up in grey on green. I asked her about it and she said it was the site’s choice and she hadn’t been able to change it… Fortunately, she gives virtually the same information on FB and in her newsletter.

I know I’m not alone. I know it isn’t by any means just age that brings with it difficulties dealing with coloured text. We (the sufferers) are not among the blind or almost blind, for whom different leaflets, programs, etc. have to be designed. We simply need glasses and clear reading material. Is it really too much to ask for?

10 thoughts on “Something I hate – warning, rant approaching.

  1. I fully appreciate your difficulty. At church yesterday the words of two hymns (which we have displayed on a screen) were white on a multi-coloured background and not large. I just about coped with the first hymn, since it was one I basically knew. The second hymn I quietly walked closer to the screen (we are a small congregation) which was then cited by various member sof the congregation in support of their own thoughts. Since it turned out even the vicar couldn’t read the words I suspect there will be further thought!
    Also, the son is red-green colour blind. I well remember some years ago trying to read the menu for the local Chinese takeaway before placing a telephone order. It was small print and as I didn’t have my reading glasses to hand I gave it to teenage son to read. He couldn’t see the print so younger sister ended up with the task.

  2. Exactly! Lots of eyesight problems that don’t cause difficulties in everyday life until someone decides to make print ‘pretty’!! There must be thousands who can’t read the hymn, the menu, the cooking instructions, etc. In your case, maybe the vicar will think hard. In the case of advertisers and manufacturers there doesn’t seem to be a way to influence them or even tell them what dismay they’re causing!

  3. So agree. I’m forever banging on about text on patterned backgrounds in work. In some ways it’s a triumph of medical care that we don’t have the numbers of visually impaired we used to, but fewer numbers – especially in the workforce – lessens the constituency.

    We need better education – these messages do get across if there is public messaging.

    Oh, and the rant is quite justified and absolutely forgiven :0)


  4. Plus, those of us who suffer are not seriously visually impaired. I’ve had a couple of comments on DW and one here about kids who are e,g, red/green colour blind. It doesn’t normally affect daily living but this sudden fashion for strange text on strange backgrounds just because it’s possible and might look pretty is making life uncomfortable, albeit in a minor way, for a lot of people. Then there are the ones who are struggling with an unfamiliar script (the example quoted was Chinese but Arabic, Russian, etc. would be similar), I imagine the constituency isn’t actually small at all – it’s just that it’s not (usually) a matter of life or death so people tend not to complain loudly enough.

  5. Oh dear… my LJ is dark brown on deep cream!! It’s pretending to be an old scroll or something, I think. I suspect you were alluding to that and you might have said something! Although you don’t really need to read the post, the descriptions won’t tell you much more because you don’t know my fandom, and most of the time I don’t post anything!

    • No!! The darkness of the font on your LJ makes it perfectly easy to read!! It was another friend’s blog – grey text on a light green background. I read your recent post with no difficulty whatsoever!

  6. I’m 100% with you on this. And it’s not even just an accessibility issue. Having strong contrast between elements is a good design practice. It helps EVERYONE read things more easily. (I teach a course at work on documentation best practices, and contrast is one of the design principles I emphasize.)

  7. Absolutely! And thanks for the ‘professional’ endorsement! I wish more people like you would spread the word. I cross post to DW and FB and have so far heard from people with various degrees of colour blindness, and people struggling with different scripts like Russian or Chinese. So it’s a worldwide problem – to millions of us – and hardly anybody ever seems to tell these designers!!!

  8. Yes, cooking instructions are terrible – tiny print, stuck on the base so you have to tip the packet upside down and risk spilling the contents…! Even worse is red on green (or vice versa) which must be completely invisible to anyone with colour blindness – yet manufacturers and/or website owners still do it!

  9. Absolutely! I seem to have hit a nerve with this post, judging by the number of comments across social media saying much the same as you. And yet manufacturers still do it and appear not to listen to the pleas of just about everybody!!

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