Screen colours (was: HUMOUR: If Craig Shergold Wrote Dr Seuss Parodies...)

Subject: Screen colours (was: HUMOUR: If Craig Shergold Wrote Dr Seuss Parodies...)
From: scot <scot -at- HCI -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 10:45:53 +1000

>Should we let users customise the colours in our software?

>This is usually considered good practice -- the vendor supplies well-chosen
>default colours, but users can change them for whatever reason:

>- user's display is greyscale or only handles limited colours
>- user is colour-blind, and the default colours don't work for them

>- user just likes red letters on a green background

>What if a single copy of the software is shared by several users?

Then either supply a way for individual users to customise their own colours
(with, say, an .ini file if its a Windoze environment), or don't let them.
You could also I guess have an 'administrator' function that allows someone
with sufficient authority to change the colours. I must add that the first
possibility is usually the most common -- what about stuff like last Window
position? If none of this is possible, I'd say, don't let them.


>What if the software uses colours to indicate relative severity, such as
>blue for normal, orange for warnings, and red for serious alarms?

Then you're in violation of this;

>- user is from another culture, where colours have different connotations

I saw an interesting doco (ITV? BBC? Channel 4? I don't know but it was
English) a few weeks ago about Traffic. During the discussion of this, the
evolution of the Traffic Light was discussed. Where do the Red and Green
lights come from?

After a number of serious steamship collisions in the Atlantic, it was
decided that all ships where to carry identifying lights. But what colours?
Experiments showed that red and green were the two most easily
distinguishable (yes not including those with Red-Green colour blindness,
which is 4% of males!) and -brighest- colours that they could use. Thus, Red
for Port and Green for Starboard was mandated. Traffic lights followed this
convention, except Red meant stop and Green meant Go (Yellow was added
later after it was shown that motorists needed some indication that the
lights where about to change -- oh and BTW the signal -positions- indicated
to those who were colour blind). I would suggest that our Red/Danger -
Green/Safe connotations have nearly entirely flown from this signalling
decision, which is to say, it's entirely cultural, and not necessarily
universally understood.

ciao, scot.
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