When Should You Push The Design Envelope?

In the last post, Rob talked about how a “big time fancy design firm” came up with a “blue text on a black background” layout, which can only be difficult to read because of the low contrast between black and blue.

It’s generally agreed that the higher the contrast and resolution, the easier text is to read, with black text on a white background at high dpi (dots per inch) being the easiest. In fact, newspapers and books can achieve higher contrast ratios than a computer monitor, so they seem easier to read. Text displayed at 150 dpi is twice as sharp as a typical video monitor, but HALF the resolution a basic laser printer achieves.

Sacrificing Readability?

In this post I want to question when it’s appropriate to sacrifice a little readability in order to make an impact. For example, magazines often stray from “black on white”ย  and splash colours across their pages, which necessitates changing font colour too. The magazine’s funky colours and layouts make an impact, in much the same way as they would at a website. So when should a website stray from “black on white”, and how far should they push the envelope before visitors rebel against their colour scheme?

At my 3DTV Reviewer blog, I use a non-traditional colour scheme of black text on a bluish background. I wanted the visitor to see a more unusual colour scheme, but still be able to read the text. I think getting the balance right between an interesting and visually appealing website and readability is difficult. No-one wants to see a 100% identikit Internet where every webpage is black text on a white background, but it’s still necessary to maintain readability.


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