Home > Low color contrast is like a faint but lingering bad smell

Low color contrast is like a faint but lingering bad smell

Great color contrast can keep people on your site

We all had this experience at least once in our life: the slightly smelly store. Something just smells off. It’s faint. Maybe it’s an issue with the sewer. Perhaps they had a customer who stepped in dog poop before entering. Who knows.

It’s not hitting so hard that you begin to think “what on earth causes that stench”. It’s just slightly discomforting at first. But after a time, while you are roaming around to find that item you came in for, it’s becoming uncomfortable.

Your brain starts churning, finding excuses to walk out and move on. When you know you can easily get their products elsewhere, it’s enough to make you leave the store.

The effect of lousy color contrast online is the same

When I run into a web shop with low contrast content, I catch myself immediately searching for an alternative site with a similar offer. Hey, I’m 51. My vision started declining when I was 44. Reading glasses are my steady companions. I’m not unique. The number of visitors with declining vision due to aging is bedazzling.

Nowadays, in my role as an accessibility advocate, I am very conscious of that. But this has not always been something I was so aware of.

I’m part of an army of visitors over the age of 45. Our vision declines. Light text on light backgrounds, thin fonts, tiny fonts, to me, its horror. If that was your web shop, you lost me as your potential customer.

Not everyone is consciously leaving, usually it’s an unconscious process

Shitty contrast in the functional parts of your site, like titles, paragraphs, heroes, buttons, and forms negatively imparts your web shop revenue.

Some official numbers

In the USA:

Approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the United States have vision impairment, including 1 million who are blind, 3 million who have vision impairment after correction, and 8 million who have vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error.

from the CDC, Fast Facts of Common Eye Disorders

The same goes for thin and small fonts

Having the color contrast right (as in color), but using a thin font, has the same effect as shitty contrast. Not all people own a fancy Apple screen. Too many designers with Apple devices don’t see how fugly and pixelated, thin fonts appear on a less expensive screen.

© 2022 Anne-Mieke Bovelett​

Accessibility & Possibility Advocate

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