Online help and topic color choices

Subject: Online help and topic color choices
From: Debbie Pesach <dpesach -at- SOHOLYNK -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999 16:50:05 +0300


I'm creating an online help file for a product that will be run on
laptops and PCs. The help file will have only one type of window
(main). I've been debating with myself about the use of background and
banner colors in the help file. I've chosen a blue banner (with black
lettering) and a white background (with black lettering). My friendly
SME wants yellow background because that's what Visual C++'s online help
uses (making it a "standard").

Since debating is more fun in groups, here are the questions:

Does anyone know of reasons (usability) why the background of the topics
should be something other than white? "I just don't like yellow and find
it distracting" isn't a great argument (and we shouldn't discuss here
WHY I need to be convincing an SME about the background color of a help
file!--it's a looong story). Seems to me that black on white offers the
highest contrast and a help file isn't exactly a doc that will be read
for hours at a time.

Do I need to take into consideration an issue raised in Horton's book
"Designing and Writing Online Documentation" that some laptops have
monochrome screens (or is that not really true anymore)? If so, what
happens to colors on the monochrome screen. Will having a background
color affect how the file is viewed on a B&W laptop screen?

What is the minimum screen settings color definition (256, high color,
etc.) that should be used (as in Display Properties|Settings, Color
field) as a baseline for colors and how they appear on screen?

Thanks in advance for your input.


Debbie Pesach
Technical Documentation Specialist

Lynk, Ltd.
Teradyon Industrial Park
Misgav, 20179 Israel
dpesach -at- soholynk -dot- com

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