How To Use Color To Improve Usability
Color is the most impactful creative element when it comes to visual design, and experienced designers know that they can use color to improve usability of digital products. Since users intuit much of the visual experience, effective color implementation can not only set the tone emotionally, but also helpfully guide interactions with the product.
In our previous post, The Importance of Color in Design, we looked at the basics of color theory. Initial color decisions made up front can set the overall feeling and influence users within seconds of engaging with the product. In this post, we will build upon our knowledge of color theory, and look at some specific ways to use color to improve usability of the interface and positively impact user experience.
Use Color To Draw Attention to Key Content
Color can be used to clearly communicate and establish the hierarchy of the information presented. By giving prominence to the most important elements, you can lead the user to interact intuitively with the information in a desired order, even after just a quick scan. Introducing high-contrast colors to a product’s design can help signify key content or elements that are important, and draw the user’s eye to that information.
High-contrast refers to the difference or range of bright and dark tones between two colors, with the greatest example being white and black. Colors that are across from each other on the color wheel, known as complementary colors, are high in contrast. Analogous colors, such as red and orange, will tend to have a much smaller, more limited range of tones, or low-contrast.
Low-contrast colors can sometimes look muddled, and can certainly be more difficult for users to read. Indeed, readability is a vital component of the user experience, so its important to use text with a high-contrast against its background.
This very simple example shows the difference between high and low contrast colors. While the low contrast “TEXT” is still readable, the eye is first drawn to the high contrast presentation.
Use Color To Improve Accessibility
Good design always seeks to create products that can be used by as many people as possible, including those with disability. Accessible design specifically considers users with physical limitations, and results in products that can be enjoyed independently by those users.
In the area of color, designers of digital products can expect that they will have some users with common color-blindness or another color vision deficiency. Accessibility practices would have designers implement high-contrast color decisions, as discussed above. But additionally, designers can pair color with visual clues like shapes and fills, using both together to improve usability.
In the example below, the icons on the left do not follow accessibility guidelines, because the icons all have the same level of contrast, which is problematic for those who cannot see color difference. The examples on the right show alternate ways in which this UI could be more accessible. In the top example, the biker icon has a higher contrast to show it is selected. The additional examples below have additional UI elements that help denote the difference of selection.
Sites like Colorable and Contrast Ratio allow designers to quickly test a range of color pairings for contrast accessibility. Additionally, sites like Vischeck, Colorblind Web Page Filter, and Coblis can show designers how users with different types of color blindness will see a design.
Use Color To Influence Decisions
Related to contrast, color vibrance is another way that color can impact usability and positively aid users. Bright colors tend draw the user’s attention, and will typically be used on the UI elements most users will want to select, while colors with less vibrance can be used to signal a less common reaction.
The example below is a commonly implemented UI/UX pattern. The vibrant purple button stands out more than the color-less gray button. Further, it conveys a “clickable” feeling, while the gray button denotes an almost disabled state. Designers can create intuitive experiences for their users by anticipating their desired actions and making those elements clear with effective vibrance.
Of course, making design decisions like this need to be done with care. As we discussed in our post on Dark UX Design, similar choices could be made to trick users into doing something they might not want to do, but which benefit the business in question.
Use Color To Improve Usability
In summary, color is a powerful asset in the designer’s toolbox, and designers should thoughtfully use color to impact usability. Color sets an emotional tone and guides the user’s eyes as s/he interacts with a digital product. Rightly used, it can make a product more accessible to all users, enabling them to intuitively interact and easily benefit from the product’s features.
We’d love to put our expertise in color and design to work for you. Contact us if you have an app idea that you’d like to explore.
Download our branding showcase
Boulder, CO—In the latest article from Built In Colorado, InspiringApps’ Director of Operations, Stacy Griffin, joins other leaders in sharing their career journeys, the lessons they’ve learned, and their advice for other women. Describe your career journey and current role. My career journey spans over 20 years in technology, project management, and people management. I started out as a developer at IBM and then moved into a developer lead role, which is when I began managing projects. From there, I pivoted to a formal project management role, which involved interacting with the business, gathering requirements, and managing technical project delivery. I eventually joined InspiringApps as a project manager, applying those same skills. Recently, I was promoted to director of operations, a new strategic role. I manage people and projects as a member of the leadership team. I’m also involved more on the sales side. My job requires managing a team of developers and overseeing client engagements and project lifecycle and delivery. It requires a lot of communication with clients and developers, both of whom have distinct working styles. To set expectations, I draw from years of experience in listening and applying empathy. I also have a master’s in computer science, which gives me aptitude and credibility with technical audiences. What advice do you have for other women who manage tech teams or aspire to? I have two pieces of advice for women who aspire to manage tech teams. First, find a role model. Look for mentors, ask questions and try to learn from the people around you. Secondly, avoid imposter syndrome. You should feel comfortable in your own skin. Remember that you’ve earned your seat at the table. What’s one important lesson you’ve learned in your time as a leader, and how has that made you a better manager? I’ve learned that there’s no single right way to manage people. Having the courage to manage in a way that’s comfortable and authentic to my personality allows me to lean into my strengths and improve in areas where I need to grow. It’s also important to know that treating people with autonomy and respect builds trust. People appreciate it when you’re honest and open. I’m not a micromanager, and I naturally take the role of supporting people. I’ve learned to combine open dialog with frequent check-ins. Bringing my authentic self to work makes me a better manager.
4 days ago
Culture is what we share; it’s the values, goals, attitudes, and practices that make us who we are as an organization. A strong culture can give your company an advantage by fostering loyalty, creativity, and motivation. But what are the ingredients of positive company culture? Each company has its own unique culture and way of crafting it. The best cultures dovetail perfectly: employees and leaders focus on the same mission and encourage rewards. Discovering the perfect combination, however, doesn’t happen overnight. This article shares our approach and recommendations to create an intentional company culture, offering insights and strategies that any company can apply to nurture a positive environment that leads to success. What is intentional company culture? Every company has a culture. While culture may form organically, consistent and intentional cultivation will result in greater success. Intentional company culture combines organizational values and mission with the rewards of employment that come in four main styles: Loyalty-based Performance-based Opportunity-based Lifestyle-based No style is better than the other; it’s dependent on the company and the employees hired. For instance, if your staff prefers lifestyle-based culture (flexible work or other perks) over performance-based culture (raises and promotions for a job well done), the employees may stay dissatisfied and leave to find a company culture that suits their preference. In InspiringApps’ infancy, the personalities of the relatively few people involved drove our culture. But as the company grew, we were careful to emphasize the characteristics that fostered a positive work environment and eliminated any contrary to what we’ve come to value—empathy, inclusion, and personal growth for our employees. Why do your employees need an intentional company culture? A recent survey found that 79% of employees who left their jobs did so because of a lack of appreciation, and 50% said they were more motivated by appreciation than money. This sounds like a job for company culture! In an ideal world, company culture and performance should work in tandem. Employees who are happy with their jobs have higher satisfaction rates. However, lousy work culture can hurt employees, bringing high turnover rates, burnout, and subpar work. Creating an intentional company culture requires consistency and time. There is no shortcut. Intentional company culture benefits from open minds. Influential leaders seek to: Understand what employees appreciate and what causes them pain. Hear employees’ suggestions for improvement. Follow through with promised changes. Repeat the above frequently. Intentional company culture requires commitment from everyone—especially the leadership team. InspiringApps understands this fundamental truth. An InspiringApps employee explains it best: How To Develop & Maintain a Great Company Culture Engaged employees are critical for business success. Experience is the best teacher, and we’ve learned plenty of lessons regarding things that keep our employees a happy part of the team. We built our culture slowly and methodically, and we’re proud to celebrate strong retention, with over 40% of our staff staying with us for more than five years. Among all the lessons we’ve learned, the following best practices stand apart from the rest: Promote from within. Offer excellent benefits. Be inclusive. Communicate consistently. In the following sections, we discuss each best practice in detail and share our experiences to help every company develop and maintain a great culture. Promote From Within Today’s employees are looking for a company with opportunities for career advancement and appreciate roles with a clear path to growth and promotions, as they give them personal goals to work towards. Along the employee journey, InspiringApps offers professional development opportunities that help our team members stay on top of their skills, expand their capabilities, and incorporate new and developing interests. By doing so, our employees can have long tenures at InspiringApps, while remaining competitive. At the same time, we can hire the best candidates for our growing positions right from our own team. As the InspiringApps client roster scaled, so did our team. We promoted long-time employees into our development team lead roles, recognizing their wisdom and honoring their commitment to our team through their tenure. Offer Excellent Benefits Many startups, including InspiringApps, may be resource-constrained in the early days. Health and retirement benefits are expensive, so we focused first on benefits that didn’t require a direct cash outlay. Establishing a two-day-per-week remote work policy over a decade ago, accommodating part-time employees, and offering flexible work hours were all low-cost ways to treat our team with respect. As InspiringApps matured, we also added more traditional benefits. In addition to a 401(k) plan with match, profit sharing, and a generous and flexible PTO policy, we recently increased the company’s health premium contribution from 50% to 100% and added company-paid vision, dental, disability, and employee assistance (EAP). Be Inclusive Inclusivity is a mandate kept top-of-mind in the projects and clients we take on and the staff we hire and promote. In a historically homogenous industry like tech, inclusivity can be a challenge. Through intentional recruiting and a focus on providing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups to join the field, InspiringApps is working to build a more diverse team that better reflects the communities we serve. Promoting women in tech is one way we’ve made strides in our company. At InspiringApps, women make up 40% of our leadership team and more than a third of our employees, which is 20% more than the US average. Promoting diversity and inclusion provides various perspectives, which is essential for the challenges we’re addressing in our consumer apps. We consider it a competitive advantage as we continue to innovate for our clients. Additionally, we’ve made a concentrated effort over time to welcome new employees. Years ago, that welcome included a team lunch on Pearl Street. Since our team has grown, that lunch is now digital—and the efforts to be inclusive extend much further than that. Communication and connection are ingrained into the way we set up projects, make progress on initiatives, and more. Communicate Consistently Secrecy and unexplained decision-making from leaders lead to unengaged employees. Transparency is the answer. About 85% of employees are most motivated when they know what’s happening and why. Open and frequent communication, including standups and all-hands meetings, project or team demos, company newsletters, and social media, encourages employees to gain trust in leadership. When you share company goals regularly, your employees will feel confident in knowing the direction they’re working. The more your employees see open communication from leaders and are encouraged to participate in decision-making, the better communicators they’ll be with your clients, modeling positive communication behaviors in everything they do. Technology is your ally when it comes to employee engagement. Offering a Slack channel or other internal chat features, an employee app, or an intranet site where employees can share and talk directly to leaders can inspire a transparent culture. The Value of Culture InspiringApps nurtures a culture of respect, empathy, and inclusivity. Our commitment to culture is exemplified by an official Great Places to Work ® Certification™. But that recognition is only a small window into the little things that our team is doing every day to reinforce the culture we’ve been nurturing for years. Our culture is one of our most valuable assets. It defines our expectations for the way we treat one another. Beyond making InspiringApps a pleasant place to work, our culture is evident in our client relationships and in the apps we create. Building award-winning apps starts with a language that’s foreign to many of us: code. For more than 15 years, our app development team has built easy-to-use iOS, Android, and web applications serving over 100 companies in a dozen industries. See our work.
1 month ago