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Color Accessibility – UX Best Practices for Using Color in Design

Designing websites can be fun, challenging and exciting. Even if you are just managing the process behind the website design, it is important to be aware of best practices of color use in web design.

Color is one of the most powerful tools when designing. Color can introduce personality into your web page, it can bring across your brand and your message, it can make the user feel more at ease. But it can also alienate and confuse people - imagine being color blind and navigating a site that hasn’t thought about this intricacy.

Have you considered your end user in your color choice for your web design? Other factors that you should take into consideration are how our brains see color, the way color affects usability, and the cultural connotations of color. Color plays a role in the readability and user experience. For instance, overlaying colors on opposite ends of the color wheel can make reading easier.

Designing with accessibility in mind is not a barrier to innovation, guidelines to help you design for a diverse set of end users will challenge you to find the best solution to your design problem.

Some tips for designing with color accessibility in mind

Don’t use color as the only visual means of conveying information

Find and use alternative visual means to convey information - Use both colors and symbols. For instance, a required field left blank could be conveyed with a red border. However, if you are finding color difficult to visualise, then this wouldn’t be too useful. Another method would be to include a hazard triangle in the empty field to visualise and convey that the field has been left blank. This will help users who are unable to, or have difficulty with, distinguishing colors.

Always ensure sufficient contrast between text and background

Ideally it is said that the contrast ratio between text and its’ background should be at least 4.5 to 1. If your font is at least 24px or 19px bold, the minimum drops to 3 to1.

But why you ask? Imagine if you are color blind, if the contrast is not there, the text and the background will just fade into each other.

Quick rule of thumb - don’t overlay light-on-light or dark-on-dark and do overlay colors with varying values to help with readability.

Keep it minimal

Limit the color palette you use for your website - allow for fewer instances of confusion. Stick to a core group or core set of colors to best represent your design or brand. Minimalistic design is timeless and a current trend - it also is very useful if you are designing for color accessibility.

Avoid these color combinations

Here are a few combinations to avoid - depending on the type and severity of a user’s color blindness - these combo’s may be a potential nightmare

  • Green and red;

  • Blue and purple;

  • Green and brown;

  • Green and blue;

  • Light Green and yellow;

  • Blue and grey;

  • Green and grey;

  • Green and black;

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Navigation options for improved usability

Ease of navigation is closely linked to user experience - it can make or break how the user interacts with your website. From being able to find and use your navigation menu, through to the user being able to find the information they are looking for, it is important to ensure your navigation options are cleverly designed and stick to best practices.   If visitors are having difficulty with your navigation options, you are missing an opportunity to either create a conversion, delight your customer or engage a potential client.   When it comes to your website usability, here are some things you can focus on to ensure your site’s navigation is a user-friendly one:   1.     Keep it simple While this one may sound obvious, it is important to ensure that you avoid making your navigation difficult to comprehend. Examples of this include cluttered navigation menus, disorganized sub menus   2.     Keep it predictable While creativity makes your website stand out and is great to catch a user's attention and provoke emotion, it is important not to practise creativity in areas where predictability is preferred by the user or visitor. Such as when creating your navigation menu or the placement thereof.   3.     Keep it consistent It is key to keep the theme and structure of the different pages of your site consistent. Check our CakeDC.com menu and the different pages, each page keeps the overall theme and structure consistent. This is to ensure that your user is able to make sense of the content as quickly as possible when switching between pages.   4.     Have a clear hierarchical structure Every category and clickable sub category should have a clear hierarchical structure and should be visible in your menu. Doing this gives your user a clear view and pathway for them to go to the exact page or content that they are wanting. This point is particularly important for website that have a wide range of products or services.   5.    Make it distinct Navigation options should be clearly visible and easy to find. They should stand out from other graphics, images or backgrounds. This can be done through size, color and font.   6.    Link the logo to the homepage A good practice is to link the homepage to the logo of your company on your website. This logo should be in the same place on every page. Users have a high tendency to click on your logo, with the expectation that it will lead back to the home page as this is a generally predictable behavior across websites and design practices.   7.     Always include a search bar Search bars are necessary for making your website more usable to your visitors. Some visitors only want to find information by using a search bar within your site. Offer your users a way to navigate through your website without having to go through every page or menu option.

Difference between UX and UI

UX and UI are often misused in the tech industry. Understanding the key differences between UX and UI is beneficial, we take a quick look at both. UX, User Experience Design, and UI, User Interface Design, are both crucial to a product, such as a website, and work closely together while remaining vastly different disciplines. UX design tends to be more analytical and technical, while UI is not. A basic example for UX design would refer to how users interact with CakeDC.com, where they find the navigation menus (is this as per industry norm or do they have difficulty navigating around the website to find the information they are looking for, or how to contact CakeDC via our contact form or telephone number). Whereas UI design looks at ensuring brand relevance through the look and feel of the site, keeping color standards as per best practice. UX, User Experience Design UXD or User Experience Design refers to the process of enhancing the experience that a user has with a company, its products or its services. This is done by focusing on increasing the ease of use as well as improving the overall interaction between the user and the product or service. Good user experience design translates to customer satisfaction and loyalty so it's vitally important to ensure good design is put to practice! As a UX designer, you will  need to understand your site’s users and potential users, from creating persona’s to determining user stories and carrying out user testing. A persona could be an example of a customer who is seeking more information by contacting you versus a visitor who would like to learn more by reading your blog. UI, User Interface Design User Interface Design is the look, feel and interactivity of the product, basically referring to the means by which the user and a product (such as a website) interact with each other. The end goal of UI Design is to “achieve structure, analysis and optimization of a customer’s experience with the company and product.” UI Design includes activities that range from user guides and story lines through to UI prototyping and implementation with the development team.
  While there are differences between UX and UI, there are some similarities, let’s look at these:

  • Have a primary objective of improving customer satisfaction such as improving the use of a “contact us” form
  • Focus on the user and his/her interaction with a product/service such as having an easy to navigate menu
  • Can be applied to any product
Here is an example of the planning behind CakeDC.com

Website redesign? Here's a checklist of things you’ll need to consider

Redesigning your website can be a daunting and scary task, however, with the proper preparation and the right development team it can be a breeze! It can be a potentially long and tedious process, with a lot that can go wrong. From just a visual overhaul through to improving branding, user experience and sales, a website redesign can encompass a wide variety of changes that you can benefit from. Whatever your reasoning is for choosing a redesign, it offers you an opportunity to re-evaluate the bigger picture and see where improvements can be made. Here’s a quick checklist of things to look out for when embarking on a website redesign

  1. Strategy - why are you doing a redesign. Pencil down your main points behind the redesign project. What are your goals, ideals, visions. Where do you want the redesign to get you. What are the measurable results that you are hoping to see - importantly, you should also benchmark your current traffic and metrics.
  2. Saving your current assets - Have you made the proper back ups of the important files, media etc so that these remain accessible after the redesign of your website is complete. Go a step further, and take your metrics to work out what the most important assets and pages of your website - such product pages with the most sales or blog posts with the most views or social shares.
  3. Define your target audience - who is your idea visitor? Look at your customer journey and describe your customer.
  4. Have you checked out your competitors? Conduct competitive research - their overall look, problem areas, good ideas that appeal to you and your product/redesign.
  5. Outline your key features - identify what is most important to your website redesign. From shopping carts to news posts, landing pages, social sharing, security updates.
  6. Set your budget - outline what you want and how much you’d like to spend on it. Who - an agency, a freelancer etc - as well as the size or scope of your project, backend applications or additional features that you are looking for.
  7. Create a timeline and schedule your milestones - When do you expect to see things happen.
  8. Have you considered optimization? Don’t forget to make sure that your site is optimized social media and search engines.
  9. Test and revise - before launching!

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