Selection of Colors for On-Line Docs (was Re: RED and GREEN

Subject: Selection of Colors for On-Line Docs (was Re: RED and GREEN
From: David Jones/KSBEISD <David_Jones/KSBEISD -dot- KSBEISD -at- DATAHUB -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 08:49:49 HST

Thank you, Scot, for your thoughts re the Chinese view of red. I work with many
people of Chinese ancestry (one of the 'big three" ethnicities over here), and
have taught Chinese students from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong ... and
none of them ever mentioned considering red to be good luck. But then, I
usually used blue when correcting papers--wonder what their view of *blue* is?

To get this back to a Tech writer's topic: Selection of screen colors for
online documentation. Regardless of delivery format (HTML browser, Envoy,
Acrobat, word-processing document), what do you think are:
(1) Readable, attractive color schemes
I ask this because, while I like black text on off-white backgrounds, we
have people using dark blue on black, purple on pink, orange on black or green
on black (nostalgic for their old mainframe terminals ;^>) etc, etc.
(2) The good and bad points of letting users select their own colors, e.g.,
when using an HTML browser?
While nominally any browser lets the user change colors, fonts, etc., I
would think that if you made the browser's configuration file read-only, you
could prevent the change. (Guess I'll have to try that with Netscape tonight.)

I am currently peripherally involved in a project to put our corporate policies
and procedures online. Both Mac and PC (both DOS-only and Windows) users will
need access. I'm reading Bill Horton's book _Designing and Writing Online
Documentation_ but haven't gotten to where he discusses color (we're still at
the organization and development of topics stage). So any thoughts from you all
would be greatly appreciated.

David Jones, Technical Writer
David_Jones/KSBEISD -dot- KSBEISD -at- Datahub -dot- com
Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate

"I do not speak for my employer, my computer, or any other living thing."

To: TECHWR-L @ LISTSERV.OKSTATE.EDU (Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L)
From: scot @ HCI.COM.AU
Date: 04/11/96 03:55:00 PM
Subject: RED and GREEN should not be seen ...

>I suspect this may be built into human biology by millenia of life, where
>seeing red blood might indicate life-threatening injury of self or another
>member of the tribe, or weakening of potential prey. And green might indicate
>plant life offering a place of concealment. I've heard it hypothesized that
>humans original developed their carnivorous practices as hunters that chased
>prey until it was too exhausted to run or fight ...

My whole point was it is a cultural construction, not 'in-built' or
biological. Yes I've heard the red=blood explanation before, but without
some anthropological or scientific evidence that all humans regard RED as a
sign of immanent danger it just doesn't wash. In fact there is evidence to
suggest OTHERWISE. For instance, RED to the Chinese usually means Good Luck,
not Danger, so if your Nuclear Plant control program turned bright red a
Chinese user could be forgiven for thinking this was a GOOD sign, and keep
draining the coolant ...

ciao, scot.
#include HCI Consulting, Sydney, AU
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