Re: feedback - styling - gray text


You're right that your contrast reduction is fairly small.

I guess my concern is amplified because I have been encountering many
W3C QA web pages with bad designs and usability problems (e.g.,
fixed-positioned menus that hide content and that aren't scrollable
in small windows, uses of "overflow: auto" that force the user to
scroll horizontaly much more than otherwise necessary, etc.).

My concern is that the W3C QA group is increasingly presenting bad
design examples on their web pages and that readers who come to the
W3C QA group's web pages (for the information on constructing
high-quality web sites) might copy those bad designs and usability
problems they see there.

(No, your small reduction in contrast isn't really a usability problem
itself.  I was just concerned that it might induce reductions in
contrast in other pages, as other page authors/designers (in the QA
group or external readers) copy the idea of using gray instead of black
text but aren't careful to keep the reduction in contrast small.)

Below is the draft of my reply from before I realized why I was so
concerned about your small reduction in contrast.  I thought I'd still
send it because it might still provide a bit of useful information.


> Hello Daniel.
> On Aug 15, 2006, at 04:29 , Daniel Barclay wrote:
>> On the page at, it appears that much of the text
>> is some shade of gray (instead of being fully black).
> Indeed, the text is a dark gray with a very slight blue hue, which was 
> meant to be more pleasing to the eye given the colors on the rest of the 
> page.

But why do you think that (nominally) plain black on (nominally) plain
white would not be pleasing (would not be the sharpest and the easiest
to see and read) for regular-sized text?

Remember that if a display's black vs. white is initially unpleasing (is
of too-high contrast) to a user, the user has already had the chance to
adjust the constrast of the display so that (nominally) pure black text
on (nominally) pure white is comfortably readable.

If you reduce the contrast more, you are telling the user's browser to
display text with less contrast than is comfortable for the user.

(Reducing contrast on bulk text* is almost like amateur web authors who
use "<font size='-1'>" (or CSS equivalents) on their bulk text--telling
the user's browser to make the displayed text smaller than the size that
user has already selected as comfortable.)

* By "bulk text" I mean the main body text (text of which the user
   reads several sentences at a time), as opposed to headings,
   navigation-bar links, footnotes, etc.).

   I could understand if you felt that pure black for, say, a heading
   in a large font was too strong and therefore unpleasing.  Reducing
   its contrast a bit would not be a problem since it's easier to see
   large things with lower contrast than it is to see smaller things.

>> Given that CRT and LCD displays already have limited contrast, why throw
>> away even more of the available contrast and make things harder to read
>> by using gray text?
> I would agree with you if the background had been a shade of gray close 
> to that of the text, 

Yes, that would certainly be worse.

> but with a plain white background (luminance 100),
> the #33444A text (luminance 27) seems to be more than enough: 
> calculations show that the luminosity contrast ratio for that text is 
> 10.5, which satisfies even the highest level mentioned by the web 
> content acessibility guidelines:

Does that ratio account for display adjustments?  (I don't see how it
could, but then I don't know if there's a standard way displays should
be adjusted (so that maybe the ratio doesn't need to account for as
many adjustments).)

> Could we have chosen plain black instead? yes. But the colors chosen 
> appear to be a better tradeoff between aesthetic value (which is always 
> arguable) and accessibility (which is rather relative, but we are in a 
> very safe range).

One other thing to consider is that plenty of other things on the user's
screen typically are (nominal) plain black on (nominal) plain white
(e.g., text in a graphical file manager, in a word processor, in e-mail
software, in other web pages, even in other W3C web pages).

When I landed on, compared to all the other
things on my display, something about it seemed "fuzzier."  No, it
wasn't literally fuzzy or blurred, but something was less clear about
it.  It took a while to figure out what was going on--distracting us
greatly from the actual intent of and information on the page.

Yes, the reduction in contrast is fairly small, but it was almost
instantly noticeable.

I guess my concern for this [...]


Received on Wednesday, 16 August 2006 16:45:57 UTC