Colors influence people’s senses in profound and subtle ways. Red is said to stimulate appetite, while green induces calm.
Regardless of individual preferences, most seeing people will attest to the impact the colors they see have on their senses.
Your end users are no different — the color of a web or mobile app is likely the first thing they notice. If the product owner underestimates the importance of making good color selections in her company’s new software UI, she risks devaluing an otherwise excellent software experience for the user.
This is especially true if product owners and their design teams do not consider those who see the world differently and how UI accessibility must accommodate them.
Does This Design Trend Favor UI Accessibility?
People have associated colors with various senses and meanings since at least the time of ancient Greek philosophers, and color theory alone could fill several volumes academic volumes. Some basic aspects of color theory that are most relevant to software designers are:
- The color wheel & color harmony
- The contexts in which colors are used
The color wheel provides a framework for understanding how colors mix and visually interact when featured alongside one another.
Many companies build their brand and marketing strategies based on one or a few colors and the emotions they seek to inspires in customers. More practically speaking, the chosen colors and designs should have a visual impact.
Product owners looking to control their budgets could be wary of investing the time and resources into fine-tuning the colors of their software interfaces.
But the importance of color choice isn’t lost on the best UI designers — skimping on color consideration could reduce the number of sustained interactions with a new and otherwise functional product.
Color & UI Accessibility
If color choice can influence users to act in a business’s favor, all the better.
But just because a color is “right” for some people doesn’t make it the best color for inspiring all of your user personas to take action in the business’s favor.
Don’t Turn Away Users With Poor UI Accessibility
About 4.5% of people experience some form of color blindness. If more of your users happen to be male, up to 8% of your users could experience difficulties in a UI that has been designed without considering their needs.
2018 Color Trends: Good for All of Your Users?
Pantone’s tradition of selecting a color of the year started in 2000. The secretive selection process weighs trending topics and society’s collective mood before making its final decision. In the past, the color authority’s pick has influenced everything from fashion and makeup to interior design and advertising.
When it chose ultra violet as the color of 2018, Pantone sought to provoke optimism and inspiration. According to Pantone, ultra violet, a “dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade… communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.”
Based on this description, the meanings behind this color sound like everything to which a software team should prescribe. Since teams building software are always looking to innovate and improve, there’s little doubt that ultra violet — or PANTONE 18-3838 TCX — will appear in many websites and applications over the course of this year.
But will incorporating this trend in your next UI make all of your users happy? Maybe — for some. But there’s an important chance you can guarantee turning off a small segment that could potentially harm your ROI.
Standardization in UI Colors Helps Design Teams — to an Extent
The name of Pantone’s game is color standardization. Colors get specific numbers, which provides designers across industries a source of truth. Choosing, implementing, and referring to a shade of yellow becomes a lot easier when they can use a single number instead a subjective description.
Such standardization is critical to Agile software development and Lean design. It helps to speed iteration in the design phase, which in turn allows development to begin earlier.
But if designers learn anything from user testing it’s that users are hardly standard. Their specific needs can be quite different from one to the next.
When it Comes to UI Accessibility, What’s Best for Users?
Color’s meaning and impact can change based upon the context. In Thailand, for example, purple is associated with mourning, whereas many Western cultures associate purple with royalty, wealth, and luxury.
Use the key colors that match the message that you want to send to your user or customers — but also those that don’t hinder their navigation in the UI. This way, design teams are always working to serve real business needs by building UIs that form strong user loyalty.
Tools for UI Colors That Meet Your Users’ Needs
There are a number of tools at UI designers’ disposal to test colors and their impact on color blind or visually impaired individuals.
- Photoshop offers a few tools that help designers vet their color choices
- WebAIM ensures adequate background/foreground color contrast to optimize page legibility
- Using this Chrome plugin can reveal to designers which of their favorite websites do — and don’t — optimize their interfaces for colorblind populations.
In general, avoiding the following color combinations is essential to avoiding turning off users from using your software due to poor UI accessibility:
- Grey & white
- Black & green
- Brown & green
- Grey & green
- Purple & blue
- Purple & red
- Blue & green
- Yellow & light green
- Grey & blue
- Red & green
Why You Need to Imagine Your Users Complexly
A business can identify and focus the needs of specific populations through categorizations such as age, sex, location, occupation, industry, etc. But they may be missing essential pieces of the success puzzle when they forget the lens of ability. If left unconsidered, poor UI accessibility means businesses inadvertently shut down opportunities to work with and provide greater value to more kinds of people.
Following some UI trends when building better software can keep some users engaged over longer periods of time. But true brand loyalty comes from providing value to more people by reducing high hurdles to truly accessible software.
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