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May 23, 2006 11:44 AM

Broken: Unreadable text at Cooper-Hewitt

CooperFurther suggestion that many designers today work in a thick layer of smog... everything in the Cooper-Hewitt online calendar is light-gray on a white background.

Hey designers: the ink online is free - and contrast is not a bad thing! Once in awhile people do actually want to read your text. Up the contrast, please.


I'm sorry, I didn't realize that there was a fog advisory for the internet today...

Posted by: =David at May 23, 2006 11:58 AM

This doesn't bother me. Could be a little darker but looking at black and white all the time makes my eyes tired. Black backgrounds with colored type (like light neon green) bother me more.

Posted by: JAC at May 23, 2006 12:07 PM

Not broken. We have gone through this same thing before. It is just fine, and is not hard to read at all.

Get over it.

Posted by: Tim at May 23, 2006 01:05 PM

It isn't broken. I can read it just fine. What does Tiffany & Co. have to do with HP? And "behind-the-scenes" I doubt LOL.

N t b oken!

o r

Whoops but some te t is LOL


Posted by: Another guy named Alex B. at May 23, 2006 01:14 PM

Not broken. I can read it fine. I suggest that you use the Windows Accessibility feature that inverts the screen to white-on-black.

Posted by: Big_Wang at May 23, 2006 02:13 PM

Bad but not anywhere near half as bad as the Huffington Post.

Posted by: Steve at May 23, 2006 02:34 PM

It's kinda disappointing when several of my submissions are rejected, and I see this same exact thing posted over and over again.

Tomorrow will be another product that promises an "experience" with its use, or maybe another computer error message, something I thought wouldn't be dealt with on this site.


Posted by: Manni at May 23, 2006 03:36 PM

Not totally broken, but not great, and somewhat ironic for a design museum. I particularly dislike the hover colors / lack of underline chosen for the "Next Month" and "Previous Month" navigation links -- forces the user to rely almost totally on the watching the pointer change (instead of looking at the content).

Posted by: Mark at May 23, 2006 04:24 PM

Most of these messages seem to be

"Not broken. I can read it just fine."

That's nice, but just because you can read it, doesn't mean everyone can. The human eye at 60 lets in fully one third of the light of the human eye at 20. It is definitely BROKEN to force a reasonable proportion of your readership to strain and struggle to read your text for the sake of the web page designer's personal sense of aesthetics.

Posted by: SImon at May 23, 2006 05:20 PM

Even Microsoft Paint can't see the text well.

Copying the window (ALT+Print Screen), pasting to Paint, and saving the image as a Monochrome Bitmap produces an indistinguishable mess (here made a PNG with the GIMP):

A good-contrast page would show readable black text on white (or white text on black) when saved that way. Broken by a mile.

Posted by: game kid at May 23, 2006 06:44 PM

Not remotely broken. It looks good (which matters - web design isn't solely about conveying raw information) and the contrast is adequate for anyone who doesn't have clinically impaired eyesight. Those people will probably be browsing with a custom stylesheet enabled anyway, providing enlarged, black-on-white text.

So long as the designer hasn't done anything to impede such overriding of text size & colour, this is entirely accessible.

Posted by: NRT at May 23, 2006 07:19 PM


Vision problems are why Windows has accessibility features. Not sure what Mac has.

Some people are color-blind; does that mean that all websites shoud be designed with that condition in mind, too???

Anyway, your monitor has brightness and contrast settings. Most likely, so does your video drivers. All else fails... turn on the access. features.

Posted by: sd at May 23, 2006 10:05 PM

game kid...

Poor graphic editing skills does not make anything broken but the editor. Give that threshold command a try....

Posted by: sd at May 23, 2006 10:07 PM

"Some people are color-blind; does that mean that all websites shoud be designed with that condition in mind, too???"

See Checkpoint 2.2, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0: "Ensure that foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having color deficits or when viewed on a black and white screen."

Translation: Not all websites should be designed with that condition in mind, but those that don't will only make Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the Web) and his entire W3C cry, and for good reason.

Once again, badly Broken for breaking a W3C Recommendation (the same sort of thing that makes people whine about Internet Explorer) and tiring my retinas.

Posted by: game kid at May 24, 2006 12:32 AM

( The Guidelines are at for those interested. )

Posted by: game kid at May 24, 2006 12:35 AM

What I'm saying is that people don't want to adjust contrast just to see text. They'd very much rather laugh at the page and switch to a new company that gives a damn.

If anything, I say Hurst is giving them a fighting chance where they have none. ;)

Posted by: game kid at May 24, 2006 12:41 AM


No threshold command on MSPaint. Try again.

Converting to monochrome is a good way of seeing how your page will be viewed by people with bad eyesight. game kid is right, and Broken is correct. People shouldn't have to tune their monitors to compensate for bad web design - it's like asking people to make the effort to read your business's sign because you don't want to spring for actually making it readable.

Bad web design is truly broken. He is posting this because still no one has fixed it.

Posted by: =David at May 24, 2006 01:34 AM

Thanks, David... and I should have mentioned in the original post - this is especially egregious because the Cooper-Hewitt is the National Design Museum! Shouldn't their Web team, of all people, understand how to make something basically usable?

Posted by: Mark Hurst at May 24, 2006 09:13 AM

It would be more readable if there were greater contrast. If this were a book at Barnes & Noble, people would return it because they found it hard to read. Somehow, because it's on the Web, the designers feel the fundamentals of good typographic design no longer apply.

Yes, the rules can (and sometimes should) be broken...but on a calendar of events for a public museum? C'mon, that's just silly.

Posted by: Michael McWatters at May 24, 2006 10:32 AM

Looks good. Very aesthetically pleasing color choice and layout. Slightly darker text would be good, but I can still read it no problem.

Posted by: PorpoiseMuffins at May 24, 2006 12:05 PM


>Vision problems are why Windows has

>accessibility features. Not sure what Mac has.


>Some people are color-blind; does that mean

>that all websites shoud be designed with

>that condition in mind, too???

I don't see how you you can justify requiring requiring nearly 20% [proportion of over-60s in the USA from] to have to use special accesibility features to access a website. How high would the proportion have to be who need special tools to visit a site for you to label it broken? 30%? 50%? 100% (e.g. if it was in a font so small no human eye could read it without the Windows Magnifier)?

I would say requiring *any* non-insignificant proportion to use special tools to access a site is broken, if the solution (i.e. increasing contrast) would not affect the functionality of the site. What's the point of alienating a proportion of your readers for no perceivably useful reason?

Posted by: Simon at May 24, 2006 12:36 PM

To further the argument of "how can a design museum do this" and to counter the posts of "people with diabilities can just adjust their screens"...Cooper Hewitt mounted an exhibtion in the late nineties called Unlimited by Design which examined how the principals of universal design have raised our standards for usability. The general idea is, design your things (product, information, formatting, etc.) from the beginning to be usable for the vast majority of makes it better for everyone. Cooper Hewitt used to have a great web site for the exhibtion but the link seems to be dead.

Posted by: Alice at May 24, 2006 01:53 PM

Here's a link for more info on Universal Design:

Posted by: Alice at May 24, 2006 01:59 PM

"Some people are color-blind; does that mean that all websites shoud be designed with that condition in mind, too??? "

Since you considerately used the word 'should', I can safely answer 'yes'. Yes they should design with all types of users in mind.

Good web design - and good web designers - keep in mind colour schemes that are detectable to colour-blind users (as one of many, many examples of web-accessible design).

Actually, good design espouses that it is not necessary to adhere to any *particular* rule, so long as other design elements compensate.

For example, ensure that there are multiple indicators of functional elements. eg. colour, bolding and underlining hyperlinks. This allows colour-impaired people to still find hyperlinks.

There are guidleines as to how much contrast there should be between text and background.

Personally, I did not find this example unacceptable in my pro experience.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at May 24, 2006 02:36 PM

Does not print well either..

Posted by: basin at May 24, 2006 06:00 PM

And the sad thing is that all that needs to be done is change a hexcode number in the bg color tag of the HTML - something that takes... what, 3 seconds?

Posted by: Mnok at May 25, 2006 12:31 AM

Broken. If the function of the page is to inform users of upcoming events, the page is not meeting that need for a certain percentage of users. Somehow, "looking cool" has become more important than "working cool"

Posted by: Reformed Geek at May 25, 2006 10:43 AM

Using high contrast color schemes is also really important for accessibility reasons. For someone with low vision, light-gray on a white background is very difficult, if not impossible, to read. And the reality is that you don't have to sacrifice aesthetics for accessibility. There are lots of sites that are both attractive and easy to read for people with vision loss.

Posted by: Adrianna Montague-Gray at May 25, 2006 12:38 PM

Manni, I totally, completely, 100% agree with you. Seems like this site is 'broken' lately...

Posted by: ambrocked at May 25, 2006 02:09 PM

For a quick fix for poorly contrasting text, try Ctrl-A to select all. You'll even be able to read text that's the same color as the background.

BTW, I say broken. Don't force people with minor vision problems to work around bad design.

Posted by: Another Bob at May 25, 2006 04:16 PM

Not only are people with vision problems affected by "foggy" websites but so are people who can't afford or don't have access to good computers. I use Webtv, it has the same resolution as a non high def television. the only way to adjust the picture is to fiddle with the little knobs on the tv. This site is not the worst I've seen. Sometimes context is so hard to read that I copy and paste it into an e-mail field just so I can read it. I say this site qualifies as broken.

Posted by: Timm at May 26, 2006 02:10 AM

By "this site" I mean Cooper-Hewitt.

Posted by: Timm at May 26, 2006 02:42 AM

wow! a design museum concentrating on what looks good and not what is the most functional for users. that is not a very good argument. they are not programming a site on accessibility. also, what is up with the color blind argument? the last time i checked color blind people could distingish between gray scale and only had problems with colors, but i could be wrong.

i disabled style sheets and the site came up OK and the contrast was higher. i work for a non-profit that focuses on disability rights and i agree the site may not be the most accessible in the world. we have a 'pretty' version and a 'basic' version which pulls out most of the styles as far as background and font colors to make it more readable. they may want to do something like that..

Posted by: jmfc at May 29, 2006 09:27 PM

not broken. It's a design site for designers. Graphic designers don't actually read text, they just use it to fill space and make the page look nice.


"a design museum concentrating on what looks good and not what is the most functional for users"

Design != aesthetics only. That's decoration. Or, well, aesthetics.

Good design should look good and be usable.

Posted by: Darrel at May 31, 2006 06:11 PM

I often walk past a chain of health drink shops here in Sydney. Their products are advertised around the walls on white persplex with back bright white lighting. The text is quite small but the worse aspect is that it is in a bright green.

What with the back lighting, green on white and size I cannot read the items on offer.

I think it has a bit to do with older eyes but can they afford to not serve to slightly older people?

I often see back lighting as a distraction to reading something or even seeing the detail on an item of clothing that is in front of a brightly lit screen. It is often a problem in fashion magazines to. Maybe they are just selling an image but I want to see the detail.

Posted by: irene at May 31, 2006 06:58 PM

i can read it just fine, its just you old guys that have trouble with it

Posted by: Big_Rune_Jr at June 4, 2006 05:40 PM

I like that better than straight black and white.

Posted by: joe at July 7, 2006 03:03 PM

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