Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Listen to what Microsoft has to say about using colors in user interfaces

I just stumbled upon a very interesting and important article on MSDN about colors and their use in user interfaces.

After the fundamentals of different colors spaces are explained, the article continues with design concepts and guidelines that are important to every software developer not exclusively programming on monochrome displays. It highlights the fact that a large portion of the male population has difficulties distinguishing colors and links to the publication Can Color-Blind Users See Your Site?, which describes this topic in more in-depth. But not only color blind people will get annoyed by software that uses colors that are hard to distinguish.

Another highlighted aspect are themes and the possibility for users to change their software visuals to their liking. Those wishes should be respected by every software developer and designer.

The primary goal of a user interface is to ease the user's perception of what is going on and/or how he can accomplish what he currently wants to do with your software. There are many different ways to make this as easy as possible, and icons and colors are a very important part of it. But there are many things you can do wrong when styling your application. You have to take factors like different display hardware and lighting conditions, people's unique color perception and individual themes into account.