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  1. #1
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    Why are so many sites using gray text?

    Can somebody please explain why so many sites are making their text harder to read?

    A lot of sites are using gray-on-white or gray-on-gray text -- including this one!

    Is there some backroom deal with eyedrop vendors? Why are designers doing this?

    Google shows plenty of others complaining about this and writing Greasemonkey scripts, but I missed the memo justifying this (appalling) practice.

    If you have a site with gray text, please explain why it's better than black text.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tailslide's Avatar
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    Black text on white background is generally considered to be too high a contrast and hard on the eyes. A very dark grey on white is easier to read.

    If you had a slightly darker background then black might be more appropriate. It's not specifically the use of black - it's the contrast between the text colour and the background colour that's the issue.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks!

    But considered "too high a contrast and hard on the eyes" by whom? Based on what studies? When did this idea get circulated?

    I know that not being able to read a #%^&*! site seems harder on my eyes. ;-)

    Meanwhile, I've uncovered http://www.wowwebdesigns.com/power_g...d_of_contrast/ , which makes claims about the rationale.**


    <snip></snip>
    Last edited by spikeZ; Jan 20, 2009 at 14:44. Reason: removed comment

  4. #4
    SitePoint Addict Belfast75's Avatar
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    W3C Recommendation:
    http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-WCAG20...trast-contrast

    There are a variety of colour contrast testing sites. eg:
    http://juicystudio.com/services/lumi...trastratio.php

    Hope this helps,
    D

  5. #5
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    Thanks, but those W3C guides are setting minimum acceptable contrasts. They are not telling designers to muck up their sites!

    It's like the law says I have to feed my kid nutritious meals. I stay out of jail feeding her quality dog-food. That doesn't mean I'm a good parent.

    Also, these W3C suggestions make no mention of maximum contrasts! So why do designers think readable is bad? Is it just misinterpreting the guidelines?

  6. #6
    Resident curmudgeon bronze trophy gary.turner's Avatar
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    You might want to read Designing for Dyslexics and the two follow on articles.

    cheers,

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  7. #7
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    Personally, I just go with what looks 'right' - more often that not that is grey. As others have suggested, quite often 100% black on 100% is too contrasting and hard on the eyes, although it depends to a degree on the surrounding colour scheme.
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  8. #8
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    With finer, ill adjust the contrast till it just looks easy on the eyes and easy to read.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Evangelist ferrari_chris's Avatar
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    My site has a dark grey background colour. How would black text on dark grey be more readable? You'd hardly be able to see the text...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ferrari_chris View Post
    My site has a dark grey background colour. How would black text on dark grey be more readable? You'd hardly be able to see the text...
    I think the inference is that it's grey text on a white background. But then again, you knew that, didn't you...
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  11. #11
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    Its a phase just like the plainly stupid pixel font was a couple of years ago and hopefully it will move on just as that did. Like most design phases though, its usually the designers who decide rather than the end users.

    You may notice that I have edited your post and put the link in. I appreciate that the spam measures that we employ aren't to everyones taste and may inconvenience you slightly but it's worth it to us on a large scale
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  12. #12
    SitePoint Addict hitmanuk2k's Avatar
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    If I use a pure black text (#000000) then I will have a slightly muted white (#eeeeee). If I do have a pure white background (#ffffff) then the font colour I use will be a very dark grey (#1e1e1e).

    For me, and as others have noted, black on white is simply too sharp. I am yet to receive complaints against any of my layouts regards this issue so I feel I have the right mix.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrMr View Post
    Thanks!

    But considered "too high a contrast and hard on the eyes" by whom? Based on what studies? When did this idea get circulated?

    I know that not being able to read a #%^&*! site seems harder on my eyes. ;-)

    Meanwhile, I've uncovered http://www.wowwebdesigns.com/power_g...d_of_contrast/ , which makes claims about the rationale.**


    <snip></snip>
    If you find it that much of a problem then email the webmasters of the sites you are having difficulty with. If they ignore your complaint, just dont use their website. If its as bad as you say it is, im sure plenty of other users will follow suit and then the organisation may think again about using unreadable text.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrMr View Post
    A lot of sites are using gray-on-white or gray-on-gray text -- including this one!
    Well I haven't had any problems with contrast on sitepoint, where is the problem?

    If you have problems with your vision (im not making assumptions), if your using firefox then you can go View>Page Style>No Style, which will show you the site without CSS (so pure black on pure white). Or you could use/download opera and go view>style>high contrast which will put the website you are viewing in high contrast making it easier for you to read.
    If your using IE.... get Firefox or Opera

  14. #14
    SitePoint Addict ruby-lang's Avatar
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    I find any shade of gray darker than #333333 perfectly readable against pure white. Most unreadable gray text is simply too small.

    The explanation that designers make these choices based on how the page looks with lorem ipsum and never test its readability sounds plausible, though.

  15. #15
    SitePoint Member julianmag's Avatar
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    I agree on #333333 is perfectly readable with a white background.

  16. #16
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    Isn't the entire point of lorem ipsum to imitate real content? Also, I think grey text on white backgrounds is fine. It's not too contrasting, and the colors complement each other exactly. The issue I think most people encounter is the size of the font itself, not the color.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Theros View Post
    Isn't the entire point of lorem ipsum to imitate real content? Also, I think grey text on white backgrounds is fine. It's not too contrasting, and the colors complement each other exactly. The issue I think most people encounter is the size of the font itself, not the color.
    Thank you

    That's exactly the reason why one might have a hard time reading dark grey on white or black on off-white.

    The reason dark grey is chosen over black as mentioned is because of to sharp a contrast between black & white on computer monitors. That practice is as old as browesrs and the www. It works when the font size is reasonable but lately many sites seem to be created with micro sized fonts. That seems to me to be the alarming trend in web dev today.
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  18. #18
    SitePoint Zealot Lavinco's Avatar
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    I think that some people think that a clean-style means blending all colors too close together. Whereas, one should--imo--keep color ranges together, but not too close. I also think that some "designers" have never heard of a color wheel.

  19. #19
    SitePoint Zealot FaridHadi's Avatar
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    As long as the font size and line height is correct, using a dark gray font color works great. It's easier on the eyes and improves readability if done properly. That's what I think at least.

  20. #20
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    Thanks, everyone, for your replies.
    ~~~

    Quote Originally Posted by spikeZ View Post
    Its a phase just like the plainly stupid pixel font was a couple of years ago and hopefully it will move on just as that did. Like most design phases though, its usually the designers who decide rather than the end users.
    Thanks, the more I look into this practice, the more it looks like unreasoned herd mentality.


    Quote Originally Posted by gary.turner
    You might want to read Designing for Dyslexics and the two follow on articles.
    Thanks, Gary. Those articles are the best justification, yet, that I have seen for text with unreadable contrast.

    There are three huge flaws with its ideas, however:

    1. No studies were mentioned and no non-subjective data provided.
      .
    2. Most sane people will adjust the brightness and contrast of their monitors we don't need individual web "designers" screwing things up with unreadable text that is different from site to site.
      .
    3. The articles admit that high contrast is best for most people, and especially the huge group of vision-impaired users, but claims that those with "Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome" need lower contrast.

      A Google search for "Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome" yields only 171 hits. This is either another made-up, yuppie disease (link 1 below) or it is very rare.

      Crippling readability for such a small group (and based on no hard data!) is akin to banning underwear in all of Australia because one kid is allergic to cotton.



    Several people, on this thread, have now stated that gray text "looks fine", or similar. I speculate that these people have never run usability studies, with end users, on their sites.

    Meanwhile, the W3C was so appalled about poor contrast that it set minimum standards but not maximum. Web usability professionals, like Jakob Nielsen, continue to deplore gray text (link 2 below).

    I am ready to declare this another case of mass insanity pending a definitive scientific study of text-contrast on monitors.



    LINKS:
    (This forum prevents newbies from inserting anything close to a hyperlink.)
    1: Nut allergies -- a Yuppie invention

    2: Let Users Control Font Size (Bottom of the page.)
    Last edited by AutisticCuckoo; Jan 21, 2009 at 01:09. Reason: Fixed links

  21. #21
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy Stormrider's Avatar
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    I don't really understand why you keep calling it 'unreadable' - I find it perfectly fine, much easier on the eye than black on white. It's hardly low contrast. Are you suggesting that designers should always use maximum contrast, and nothing else? Can you really not read this text easily? It sounds a lot to me like you are inventing a problem which doesn't exist (akin to your first link in the post above perhaps?)

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrMr View Post
    Can somebody please explain why so many sites are making their text harder to read?

    A lot of sites are using gray-on-white or gray-on-gray text -- including this one!

    Is there some backroom deal with eyedrop vendors? Why are designers doing this?

    Google shows plenty of others complaining about this and writing Greasemonkey scripts, but I missed the memo justifying this (appalling) practice.

    If you have a site with gray text, please explain why it's better than black text.
    they do that may be to get smart readers
    you can highlight it to read.
    Last edited by CoolDude5; Jan 21, 2009 at 02:06. Reason: wrong grammar

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stormrider
    I don't really understand why you keep calling it 'unreadable' - I find it perfectly fine, much easier on the eye than black on white.
    You call it "fine", I call it "unreadable". Both are our opinions.

    However, the "unreadable" view is backed up by 400 years of print experience, 60 years of CRT experience, 10 years of LCD experience, the opinions of people who make their living off of usability, the opinion of my ophthalmologist, and by W3C and federal guidelines.

    So far, the "gray is OK" view is only backed up by the opinions of some designers and one claim about an alleged, hyper-minuscule group of impaired users.

    Google reveals many users complaining about gray text, they call it "unreadable" too. So far, Google has revealed no one who wants grayed text, except for "designers".

    There are several Greasemonkey scripts to reverse the gray plague. I have yet to see one that makes black text gray!

    ~~~
    Anywho, thanks to this thread, I now comprehend why this scourge happened ("information cascade" and herd mentality) and have an easy way to make my sites better than my competitors.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrMr View Post
    You call it "fine", I call it "unreadable". Both are our opinions.

    However, the "unreadable" view is backed up by 400 years of print experience, 60 years of CRT experience, 10 years of LCD experience, the opinions of people who make their living off of usability, the opinion of my ophthalmologist, and by W3C and federal guidelines.

    So far, the "gray is OK" view is only backed up by the opinions of some designers and one claim about an alleged, hyper-minuscule group of impaired users.

    Google reveals many users complaining about gray text, they call it "unreadable" too. So far, Google has revealed no one who wants grayed text, except for "designers".

    There are several Greasemonkey scripts to reverse the gray plague. I have yet to see one that makes black text gray!

    ~~~
    Anywho, thanks to this thread, I now comprehend why this scourge happened ("information cascade" and herd mentality) and have an easy way to make my sites better than my competitors.
    If you say so...
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  25. #25
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    I have certainly visited some sites where the text was grey, and as a result I could imagine it might be difficult for some people to read. But the majority of websites use more of a charcoal shade - I agree with others that, against a white background, it is more readable than pure black, and is less likely to give me eye-strain if I read it for prolonged periods. Sometimes if I'm reading a lot of black-on-white I have to adjust the contrast on my monitor. That seems to be the majority view here.

    When sites use dark grey rather than black, I often don't even notice, the two shades are so similar, so I am very surprised that you find one easy to read and the other one completely illegible. If it continues to be a problem, it might be worth looking into a user stylesheet that you can use to override the site stylesheet on those sites where you need to.


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