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August 1, 2005 02:21 PM

Broken: Gray-on-white text at Make Poverty History

MakepovertyhistoryOver at Make Poverty History they state their case - in hard-to-read gray-on-white text. C'mon, guys, clarity gets the word out better! If you want someone other than hip designers to read your stuff, stop designing websites with gray-on-white text.

It's just like the unreadable print ad from a few weeks ago.


Maybe I have a better monitor or something, but I like this particular presntation. The car ad was awful, but I think this looks good and I don't find it hard to read at all.

Posted by: barrett at August 1, 2005 02:26 PM

Even if it is legible to some, this is a design mark that should not be used just in principle. It is moronic.

Posted by: Maurs at August 1, 2005 02:30 PM

My initial thought when seeing the screen cap is that it wasn't too bad. After visiting the site though, it really is pretty hard to read. There's just acres of text in all different boxes and between the light grey text and the bright orange links, reading their content becomes a chore.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at August 1, 2005 02:54 PM

Actually, I think that the actual site is very readable. It is a bit distracting, but with a minute amount of concentration, I find that the site is easy to understand.

The site is not broken. I usually don't think that.

Posted by: Kevin at August 1, 2005 03:15 PM

Broken is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Tim at August 1, 2005 03:26 PM

It's not hard to read at all.

Posted by: Miz at August 1, 2005 04:38 PM

That one I find easy to read. What I find hard to read is this site:

Posted by: Roger at August 1, 2005 05:27 PM

I just noticed they also provide a large text size button which changes the links to blue and the text to black as well as make the text bigger. That's a nice touch if you're going to have content that's marginally difficult to read.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at August 1, 2005 05:28 PM

A really bad gray text example is at DexOnline -- with the text inside form fields gray for some bizarre reason which makes them all look like they're inactive.

I'd say the residential search page is doubly broken for having the gray fields coupled with the last-name-first ordering of the fields.

Posted by: Rob at August 1, 2005 06:48 PM

Well, I found it very easy to read.

Looking at the code also revealed that this was a well-written page.

There were no tables, they used lists, and it was all very legible.

Is this the best we can find?

Posted by: Eric at August 1, 2005 09:26 PM

The gray on white just sucks! esign flaw...? Well yeah, DUH!

Posted by: Roger Z Kimble at August 1, 2005 10:14 PM

I have a hard time reading it on my older computer. This is broken since it is not legibal(sp?) to all visitors. Also, the enlarge text button is very easy to miss. I didn't even notice it until Josh pointed it out.

Posted by: Fayth at August 1, 2005 10:44 PM

"I just noticed they also provide a large text size button which changes the links to blue and the text to black as well as make the text bigger."

In other words, they knew their page was hard to read and forced the user to find this button and click it to make the page readable. Why not just make the freaking thing readable to begin with? Bloody artists.

Posted by: Jacques Troux at August 2, 2005 01:20 AM

I found it quite easy to read. The nonsense of the content was nauseating and broken, but the layout and design was very nice actually. I believe YOU are broken.

Posted by: Hugh Jardon at August 2, 2005 05:24 AM

I, too, found it very easy to read. Put on your glasses, MH.

Posted by: Bob at August 2, 2005 07:21 AM

What's worse than a "broken" user experience? Arbitrarily declaring something broken because it's your pet peeve.

There is signficant scientific literature on the topic of readibility (i.e. and there are formal methods for testing a given design with a sample population to determine efficacy. On the other hand, just whining that you think gray-on-white text is hard to read, especially when half the people who chime in here don't happen to agree, degrades the value of the entire profession of usability. How are we supposed to convince anyone that design is both difficult and important if we don't make reasoned arguments?

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at August 2, 2005 08:21 AM

What, nobody's commenting on the brokenness of the text size buttons? 'Large text size' hardly implies 'darker text color'; I was expecting to see larger text in the same light grey!

Posted by: codeman38 at August 2, 2005 10:07 AM

Stop whining and go check with your eye doctor. It is PERFECTLY readable.

Posted by: Wesha at August 2, 2005 10:56 AM

The issue about light gray on white has been already dicussed and exhausted a few weeks ago. Why come back again with the same stuff? Are we going to analize every single piece of communication that has this coloring pattern?

I think this subject has been vastly discussed and see no point in going back....

That's my 2 cents....

Posted by: SAM at August 2, 2005 12:21 PM

i think we beat this whole gray-on-white text thing to death.

Posted by: asdf at August 2, 2005 01:46 PM

To add my last two cents before this discussion's retired... I've come across some sites where I could read it on one monitor but not another, due to how the brightness, contrast, gamma, etc. were set.

Posted by: codeman38 at August 2, 2005 01:52 PM

This is a hard call. It would provide a "better" website experience if the text were darker, but the improvement would be small. I didn't find the text size button easily because it is just one of two buttons off in a corner, labeled "T" (yes I know that makes me not very savvy, but compare to the likely audience for the website). Perhaps it goes in a category of "somewhat broken."

But, as before, I think what is really broken is whining about this website whenever some entry is not *utterly* broken. Maybe Mark is not deluged with such submissions, but at least he keeps a stream of debatable experiences in front of us. The only right to complain resides with someone who has sent in stuff that is a lot *more* broken but is not being posted.

Posted by: Pat at August 2, 2005 02:55 PM


Posted by: DJDAN420FL69 at August 2, 2005 04:41 PM

I find nothing wrong with gray on white. In fact, it is a bit easier on the eyes that the huge contrast difference between black and white.I like it.

Posted by: Dan at August 2, 2005 07:43 PM

I find nothing wrong with gray on white. In fact, it is a bit easier on the eyes that the huge contrast difference between black and white.I like it.

Posted by: Dan at August 2, 2005 07:43 PM

Would you rather have green text on a red background? lol

Grey on white is rather soothing, at the cost of diffusing the borders of text and making it unreadable for some.

Blue on white would be better.

Posted by: PyThos at August 3, 2005 02:59 AM

I also have no problem reading this text. I wear contacts for very poor eyesight and like to remove them at night when I'm online to give my eyes a break. Even so it is still very readable.

Posted by: tool at August 3, 2005 04:02 AM

On my monitor, the body copy text is perfectly legible. The all-caps navigation on the left is the only thing I found a little hard to read, but still not that bad. For anyone that has trouble reading the gray text, there's a button to make the text larger and darker, so I don't see any problems with this at all.

Posted by: dx27s at August 3, 2005 11:11 AM

"Make Poverty History" ???

Seems to me the title of this campaign is a bit broken. Is this an opportunity to increase poverty by historic proportions?

Posted by: Alex Yourke at August 4, 2005 12:27 PM

I just tried to find it, and I couldn't, but there is a website I came across some time ago which had small red text on a black background. I'm reminded of something one of my English teachers used to emphasize: If you make something difficult to read, people will not read it.

I'd also like to point out that this particular problem has been known for centuries. In medaeval heraldry, there are seven "tinctures" -- two "metals" (gold and silver, usually shown as yellow and white) and five "colors" (red, blue, black, green and purple). The first rule of heraldry is: Don't put a metal on a metal or a color on a color. Why? Because they don't contrast well enough to be discerned at any distance. (There are two exceptions to this rule, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Papal flag, but they are special cases for historical reasons.)

Posted by: John Hobson at August 8, 2005 08:02 AM

The worst thing about this website is that its design is a blatant ripoff of 's site. =P

Posted by: Jon at November 21, 2005 05:54 AM

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