Website Design and Accessibility
Recently a friend of mine launched a new website. The website is trendy, hip, sleek, cost a fortune I'm guessing, and completely illegible. I'm not going to link to it here so as not to embarrass him. The problem with it is that the text/font is too small, and there's not enough contrast.
This means that neither my husband nor I can read the text on the website, and we're the the target market.
Shortly after I noticed that website problem, I bought and downloaded an ebook from someone on another website. Same thing. The text had very little contrast with the background. In both of these examples, the text was a light grey on a white background.
So I did a little digging and found out that I'm not alone in noticing this. Wired had an article on this topic a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, there's a trend in website design to downgrade the contrast.
It's hip, it's sleek, and it's unreadable.
I started looking around and found that this is a rampant problem. The Merriam-Webster website did it too.
One of the big reasons why this is such a big problem is that Google does it. If you click on the previous link, you'll see that the text is grey on white.
I'm going to stop here and just say that I don't have a vision problem. For my age--57--my vision is just fine. I have glasses for distance, like when I drive, and I have glasses for close-up work, like threading a needle, that I only use when I need both eyes working together. Otherwise I function just fine without any glasses.
My husband's vision, on the other hand, is not quite as good, and it waxes and wanes with his relapsing and remitting MS.
For marketing purposes, I would think that you would want great accessibility to your website and your product(s). I would think that you want to make it easy to read your text. However, somewhere along the line, someone forgot that and decided that a sleek look was more important than function.
So, I'm here to remind any designers or developers who may come across my blog, that having difficulty reading your website pisses me off. It does not inspire me to linger on your website or buy your product. It does not make your message sticky or your clever marketing memorable. The only marketing message I received was that you don't want me to buy your product.
It's a complete fail.
Because if I can't read your website, and my vision is pretty normal, then there is a giant population of people who can't read your website. Was that your intent?
Last week, I would have thought that it went without saying that function must always trump form. This week, I realize that I need to say it out loud.
You may notice that on my website, the text is black on a pale background. I also use a serif font. I do this on purpose to make it more readable.
For a long time, sans-serif fonts were the chosen fonts for websites. But there is a long-standing debate over whether one is truly more legible than the other. I don't know what the latest research says.
However, I personally believe that serif fonts are not just more legible, but significantly more legible, and that's why I have them on my website. My simple goal is to have people feel comfortable reading articles on my website and want to return.
What possible reason is there on the planet to design a website that is painful to experience?
Years ago, I used to know someone out in the oil patch who had an expression that perfectly sums up how I feel. "Either these folks are so smart, that I can't think that smart, or they're so stupid that I can't think that stupid," but I can't make any sense of why anyone wants to downgrade accessibility. To anything.
Please enlighten me if you can.