Monitor Colors and Resolution

Subject: Monitor Colors and Resolution
From: "George F. Hayhoe" <george -at- GHAYHOE -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 1997 10:39:23 -0400

Paul Branchaud wrote:

<<With regards to monitors and screen resolution, I have
always taken the position that I expect my end users to have *at
256 color VGA with 640x480 resolution, and I state it in a
Requirements" section early in the manual (or online

I think we who are lucky enough to work with state-of-the-art
equipment sometimes have unrealistic expectations. There are
still an awful lot of users out there with 16-color VGA boards
driving their monitors. True, the number is gradually decreasing
as older office and home machines are upgraded, but the 16-color
monitor (like the 14.4 or slower modem) is likely to be a fact
of life for some of our users for a while yet.

It's instructive to view online documents and GUIs on machines
with a variety of capabilities (processor speed; monitor size,
color-depth, and resolution; modem speed; etc.) to get a sense
of what various people experience when using our products. The
256-color image map that you labored over may display as an
almost incomprehensible mass on a 16-color display unless you've
chosen colors carefully with your hardware-challenged users in
mind! This is yet another reason why technical communicators
need to observe their users working with the documents they have

I'm not saying we should make all design decisions based on the
least common hardware denominator, just that we should make
those decisions with an awareness of their effect on parts of
our user population.

--George Hayhoe (george -at- ghayhoe -dot- com)

George Hayhoe Associates
Voice: +1 803-642-2156
Fax: +1 803-642-9325
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