The best of the colourblind web
May 8, 2005 5:01 PM   Subscribe

How colourblindness affects the viewing of web pages. Colour blindness affects approximately 8% of males and 1% of females, commonly by being unable to distinguish between red and green. Here is an interesting web tool for designers to check their sites.
posted by growli (40 comments total)
this place looks cool in the deutan filter...i wonder how many colorblind members we have.
posted by amberglow at 5:07 PM on May 8, 2005

Remember when the default color for links was green and red? I always figured they changed to blue and purple for the benefit of the color blind.
posted by redteam at 5:08 PM on May 8, 2005

redteam: when did that changeover happen? I've been using the web since the Cello and Mosaic days, and those browsers colored links blue/purple. Was it in the original (Sir) Tim Berners-Lee browser?

amberglow: the link you posted seems to be timing out...
posted by growli at 5:13 PM on May 8, 2005

try this
posted by amberglow at 5:18 PM on May 8, 2005

flickr appears to be down (for at least several hours)
posted by seawallrunner at 5:33 PM on May 8, 2005

But redteam, it seems to me that purple and blue are rather similar to a person with red-green color blindness?
posted by cx at 5:34 PM on May 8, 2005

oh...well, try metafilter with the deutan option : >

protan is good too.
posted by amberglow at 5:39 PM on May 8, 2005

i'm colorblind and i have to say, you would have to design a really, really, really terrible and crappy website for it to make any difference what colors you used. the only time it has ever affected me on the web is when using wikipedia and viewing the difference between revisions, as it uses red text. the easy solution was a user stylesheet to make it blue

imo, this is just taking the standards fad to the extreme. colorblind people never think about being colorblind and are rarely affected by anything.
posted by reflection at 5:43 PM on May 8, 2005

posted by teferi at 5:44 PM on May 8, 2005

Amen reflection

posted by EmoChild at 5:47 PM on May 8, 2005

I'm colorblind. Blue and purple tend to be indistinguishable to me, incidentally.

One of the few times colorblindness actually affects my life is computer games. If you're supposed to differentiate the good thingmabobs from the bad thingmabobs because one is green and one is yellow, I basically get eaten. So, it can be a problem for venues with a limited color palette such as a computer. I have occasionally come across "invisible" links as well.
posted by kyrademon at 5:54 PM on May 8, 2005

I have red-green deficiency/blindness. It rarely (but occasionally) causes problems. When it does, its is most often when colors are used for lines in a graph and I can't tell which item some of the lines correspond to in the key. It used to be a pain coloring as a kid. "Hey, why are you coloring the sky purple?" :)

I have a hard time actually naming colors though. Cars in particular seem to be troublesome.
posted by Bort at 5:58 PM on May 8, 2005 driving ok?
posted by amberglow at 6:02 PM on May 8, 2005

Well, I drive with my eyes closed anyway.
posted by kyrademon at 6:05 PM on May 8, 2005

I am another with colorblindness. As others before me have said, it isn't usually problematic, but put black, navy, dark brown, and dark green socks together in the laundry and I'm bound to end up with mismatches. I have less trouble distinguishing colors in bright, natural light.
posted by netbros at 6:09 PM on May 8, 2005

hyra: Good idea. Lots of scary drivers out there.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:11 PM on May 8, 2005

so, do these look off?
posted by amberglow at 6:49 PM on May 8, 2005

(i guess of course they do, thinking about it--nevermind) : >
posted by amberglow at 7:02 PM on May 8, 2005

"colorblind people never think about being colorblind and are rarely affected by anything.
posted by reflection"

Actually, I am colorblind (red/green) and an artist. I think about colorblindness everyday.

I left college 25 years ago because I was struggling with my abillity to properly mix and use color. My instructors were schooled in the 60's when the academic theory of color was set aside and emphasis was directed toward experimentation - and thus, they were ill-prepared to teach color theory.

Long story short - I now paint again thanks to the abundance of color-theory and color-recipe books many artists have written. But - I do think about it every day.
posted by Circa56 at 7:20 PM on May 8, 2005

growli & cx: I remember that Mosaic on the Mac had red and green links. I think I remember that the change occured either with a new version of Mosaic or when Netscape came about. Anyone else remember this? I remember because I was enraged. I really dislike purple.
posted by redteam at 7:25 PM on May 8, 2005

I really dislike purple.

This means you basically suck at life.
posted by blasdelf at 8:21 PM on May 8, 2005

One more colorblind mefi member over here. The only time mine is really problematic was playing Candyland as a kid. Goddamned color-coded cards.
posted by honeydew at 8:53 PM on May 8, 2005

I think a lot of the colour-deficient posters in this thread probably have the anomalous forms of colour deficiency, which are less severe and are more readily overcome by brightness and intensity. (Some anomalous deutans can pass the standard colourblindness test.)

And yes, in Web design the issue is using confusable colours in confusable ways. You don't really find that very often.
posted by joeclark at 10:02 PM on May 8, 2005

I asked a question about the colorblind experience on AskMe a few months ago. A bunch of colorblind users answered. Check it out.
posted by painquale at 11:26 PM on May 8, 2005

Adjusting your software design for colorblindness makes sense, considering how many people are effected by it. I should know, because I'm partially colorblind. There are a whole bunch of games out there that I have a harder time with, because it's more arduous and time consuming -- not always impossible, but just difficult -- to distinguish between certain colors.

When Firaxis released Alpha Centauri, I had the hardest time playing because of their color scheme, but I contacted Sid Meyer & Co. letting them know, and sending them the stats on just how many people are effected by colorblindness. Within a few weeks, they released a patch especially for those with colorblindness issues.

Needless to say, they're my favorite software company. (It helps, of course, that they make some great software.)
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:17 AM on May 9, 2005 driving ok?
My father was color-blind (red-green) and could never have been hired by the railroad if they had known; it was before they started tesing for that. He just went by the position of the lights, and it never bothered him.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:28 AM on May 9, 2005

testing (Aaargh!)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:29 AM on May 9, 2005

Wickline is great - while I was teaching, I made a point of using that as a tool to make the kids aware of what it would be like to be colorblind or to help put those who were on level ground. I made a point of sending them to view pictures of traffic lights, clothing, food, and so on. My assessment for this exercise was usually a test question about bicolor LEDs which are Red/Green and are frequently used for indicators for success/failure.
posted by plinth at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2005

I am color-blind. It has ruined my life (but seriously I can't dress myself properly and video games can get tough sometimes.)
posted by Dr_Octavius at 6:23 AM on May 9, 2005

Similar, maybe more useable.
posted by bdave at 6:28 AM on May 9, 2005

Also colour blind. Biggest problem for me is with dark greens and browns that supposedly[1] normal people see as different shades. One of the reasons I force all web pages to the classic Mosaic scheme of black text on grey background.

[1] I've jokingly postulated to people that I'm not colour blind they are just participating in a global conspiracy to try and convince me my socks don't match.
posted by Mitheral at 7:10 AM on May 9, 2005

Another colorblind member here. I seldom think about it, except when I'm looking at charts that use light green, dark green, purple, gray, etc. at the same time.

It does make me testy with my wife when I ask her what color something is, and she gives me some obtuse name.

Me: "Honey, is this dark green or purple?"
Her: "It's eggplant."
Me: "Give me a break, that means nothing to me. Is it green or purple!?!"
posted by Gamblor at 8:15 AM on May 9, 2005

It's interesting (and must be harder) to have to always adjust what you're actually seeing with what things are called by the rest of the world. (and it makes watching the Oscar clothes and stuff less fun)

(and that AskMe was great, pain--thanks)
posted by amberglow at 8:37 AM on May 9, 2005

Color blind, yo! Aren't there like 10% of us here? That 8% is new to me..

I'm red/green at heart, never been to an exam that was able to pin point it more specifically to which cones I'm lacking.

Here's the best way I can explain color blindness (or deficiency or whatever the PC folks are calling it) to a non color blind person:

I "see" that color you're holding in front of me. I recognize that it's not black or it's not see through. I "see" it, my eyes pick it up, send it to my brain, however, the department in my brain responsible for labelling things returns "?". No matter how hard I stare at that color, no matter how much I squint, I get a "?" from my brain instead of something like "Chair" or "House" or "Orange"

To be honest, colors are a guessing game to me. I've gotten this far (30 odd years) by looking at a color, evaluating in my experience how many times this color was referred to as "blue", and then running with it. The brighter the color, the less chance I have for error. Stick two red/green's next to each other at the same medium brightness/contrast and show them to me, and I'll just shrug at you.

I'm looking at this post submission page, and I'll be quite frank with you. The background? Might be blue, might be purple, no idea. The link color? I think it might be orange, but I have no idea. Guesses both of 'em.

Same for what Bort said about coloring the sky purple. I believe I colored trees purple and they said Uhhhh...

And oh yeah, Not sure how blue/purple is much of an improvement to a red/green blind person, because purple is blue with red added no?

This is how my eyes-brain work so I've no hard feelings about not being able to do one thing or another. There are two career vocations I've had to steer away from pretty early on in life, otherwise it has had no direct impact on me. (First was getting a pilot's license, red/green thing big no no for telling if a runway is good to go, second was a film DP, pretty hard to light a scene well when you can't tell the person's flesh tone is coming in green.)

Sometimes battery chargers or small electronic indicators are a major pain if they use a red/green led to tell status. I cheat them by figuring out which way the light is coming from if its red or green and remembering the direction -- they are usually brighter on one side than the other.
posted by cavalier at 9:15 AM on May 9, 2005

That sounds familiar Gamblor.

Her: [Holds up two outfits] Which do you like better?
Me: The green one.
Her: There is no green just an ochre and olive.
Me: Why do you ask me this stuff?
posted by Mitheral at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2005

cavalier perfectly expalins my color-blindness experience.
posted by DakotaPaul at 9:51 AM on May 9, 2005

My comments from that still apply.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 10:29 AM on May 9, 2005

When Firaxis released Alpha Centauri, I had the hardest time playing because of their color scheme, but I contacted Sid Meyer & Co. letting them know, and sending them the stats on just how many people are effected by colorblindness. Within a few weeks, they released a patch especially for those with colorblindness issues.

Wow. That's a cool story. Anyone know of other companies which have done something similar?
posted by mediareport at 11:27 AM on May 9, 2005

Ten years ago I requested IBM make what appeared to be a fairly trivial change to their mainframe mail.calendar suite PROFS (famous for sticking it to Ollie North) so that it would be supremely less annoying to use with a screen reader (a program that vocalises screen text to blind users). Our IT guys had the patch the next day.
posted by Mitheral at 2:53 PM on May 9, 2005

Good example: I can barely distinguish the links (whatever color they are) from regular text at The Huffington Post.
posted by DakotaPaul at 5:03 PM on May 9, 2005

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