Think about all your site visitors when you choose colors

As you choose colors, also keep in mind that different cultures attach different meanings to colors and be sensitive to the needs of people who are color blind.

Above all, never let color be the only indicator of a feature, function, or information. Make sure your site works in monochrome, even if you think no one will ever look at it without the color. Print your pages in grayscale so that you can check that all the page elements are obvious and readable.

Think about the cultural meaning of colors

Some graphics and colors are pretty much universal. You can drive almost anywhere and assume that a traffic light has red, amber, and green; that red means stop and green means go.

Colors also evoke connotations, like calm, aggressive, soothing, cheerful, luxurious - and those connotations are different in different cultures. Colors are sometimes associated with political parties - and, again, those associations vary with the culture. Rather than spout a few factoids about specific colors in specific cultures, the best advice I can give you is to test your site with people from the different cultures that you want to reach.

Some colorful hats

Some colorful hats

As seen by a person with deuteranopia, a form of red/green colorblindness.

Figure 7-20 What you see as bright and different colors may not appear that way to everyone else.

Check your colors to avoid problems for color-blind users

About 5 to 8 percent of males have some form of color deficiency, most often that they cannot distinguish red or that they cannot distinguish green. (Some women are color-blind, too; but the percentage is very small.)

Consider what would happen on your web site if someone cannot tell that items on the page are in red or in green (or in other specific colors). In the example from the Vischeck web site (Figure 7-20), if you only want people to see a row of hats, it may not matter that some people can't tell that the hats are different colors. If it is important that people see hats with five different colors, however, these colors won't work for everyone.

Selecting colors that work for the different varieties of color blindness is not simple. It isn't as easy as just avoiding all reds and all greens. The shade of red or green matters. Other colors can be problematic when used in combination with certain reds and greens.

The best way to know if your web page is going to cause problems is to check your design before you finalize it. Sites like and let you see how your web pages will look to people with different types of vision problems.

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