On screen color choices?

Subject: On screen color choices?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2003 08:28:32 -0400

Lorraine Kiewiet reports: <<We are assigning colors to column headings on
Excel spreadsheets. All column heading cells have a gray background.
Currently, Automatic is the default color for the font telling the name of
the column. If the field is required in all cases, we are using a Red font.
If the field is required in some cases, we are using a Purple font... Are we
making the right choices for our audience?>>

Red and purple share enough color, particularly when overlaid on a greyish
background, that anyone with color processing problems may have serious
difficulty distinguishing them. One easy way to predict whether this is the
case would be to print the screen on a greyscale laser printer; if you can
easily visually distinguish the colors in black and white, they should be
safe. Why? Because those with (say) red-green color blindness should be able
to distinguish them based on shades of grey, and those who have visual
problems with shades of grey can probably distinguish the colors.

It's probably more effective to simply add a row beneath the column headings
that holds the words "required" and "may be required". This requires no
memorisation of color schemes, and if viewers can read the text at all, they
can discern the column's importance irrespective of its color. I'm not fond
of the latter wording, so if there's some way to use the spreadsheet logic
to determine whether a column is required, it might be better to treat these
fields as the result of a calculation: if the result suggests the column is
required, the spreadsheet automatically displays the word "required". If
not, the second row is blank.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the
earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do
so. The first is unpleasant and ill-paid; the second is pleasant and highly
paid."--Bertrand Russell

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