Low-Contrast Websites

I was talking with my grandfather recently about various technology bits when he mentioned this awful trend he had started to notice on websites. Just the mention of an awful trend with the knowledge that his eyes weren't what they used to be elicited similar anger from me, mainly, that there seems to be a significant increase in low contrast websites.

Disclaimer: I realize that this blog also commits some of these sins I'm about to rant on, and I'm in the process of changing them.

This trend is very apparent in many blogs, and some are getting so bad I want to scratch my eyes out after reading them. This isn't the blog author's fault, as they're usually selecting a theme that “looks good” on a glance. Trying to read the text when the theme is in use can be a nightmare.

Consider this blog entry, it looks decent contrast-wise to me on first glance. But trying to read the text of the comments at the bottom made my eyes burn. Or the Shopify page which manages to consistently use the same color text as the background behind it. This is a pretty strict Do Not per US Section 508 Code (Web Accessibility Standards). I'm also fairly certain the W3C Accessibility standards frown on low-contrast layouts, especially if no option is given to switch to a high-contrast scheme.

This issue doesn't just affect old people or those with handicaps. I have no color blindness or issues sorting out colors yet these themes still routinely give me headaches. The thing to keep in mind when using different different shades of the same color on top of each other is that while you might have a wonderful color-calibrated monitor, the vast majority of Internet users do not. Even those with perfect vision are typically at the mercy of the quality of their CRT/TFT and the color settings that may or may not be ‘proper'.

For the designers out there, I realize that these low contrast themes can look pretty, but please put out more high-contrast themes that look great. Now to fix-up my blog…

Ben Bangert
Ben Bangert
Software Contriver

Code. Homebrew. Hike. Rollerblade.