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Joanna Wilczyńska
Product Designer
Product Design
06.07.2023 | 4 min

How does typography color affect readability?

How crucial is text color in mobile apps and websites? It turns out, it's incredibly significant. Allow Asia, a daily practitioner in the art of color, to enlighten you on this subject.

How does typography color affect readability? - 2023 28
Table of Contents
  • How does typography color affect the readability and user engagement of digital products?
  • Color Contrast and Readability
  • Color and Digital Accessibility
  • Color Psychology and User Perception
  • The Influence of Typography Color on “Look and Feel”
  • Using Colors to Prioritize Information on Websites
  • Typography Color: A Key Responsibility of UX Designers

How does typography color affect the readability and user engagement of digital products?

Even though it might not always be top of mind, the color of typography plays a vital role in a digital product's readability and overall user experience (UX). It's not just about how information is presented; it also influences how engaged users are, how content is prioritized, and how accessible the product is overall.

Choosing the right color for your typography can significantly improve legibility and make it easier for users to navigate your digital content. On the other hand, making the wrong color choices could lead to confusion, strain on the eyes, and even cause users to disengage completely.

Now, let's dive into some examples that show how powerful the color of typography can be in the software world.

Color Contrast and Readability

First up, we have the issue of color contrast and readability. When picking a color for your typography, one of the most important things to consider is how much it contrasts with the background color. A lack of contrast can make it difficult to read the text, particularly in longer pieces.

The goal is to make sure there's a clear difference between the color of the text (foreground) and the background. You can do it in several ways, such as using black on white, dark gray on white, or darker color on a lighter background, depending on the specific design situation and accessibility needs.

Interestingly, some people find that using gray text on a white background offers better readability than black text on a white background. A high level of contrast can sometimes be too harsh on the eyes, leading to discomfort or strain, especially during long reading sessions.

Moreover, certain ocular conditions also influence how people perceive the text. For instance, people with astigmatism can experience halation, a blurred effect around words. It reduces text readability and is particularly bad for people with astigmatism, as it can cause terrible headaches (which I know from my own experience).

It’s important to remember astigmatism is one of the most common eye problems, so designing with these readers in mind can greatly enhance the accessibility and comfort of your typography.

Color and Digital Accessibility

Color is more than just a design aspect; it is a key tool in enhancing accessibility within digital products, particularly for users with visual impairments such as the already mentioned astigmatism or color blindness.

Your target audience should inform your selection of color palettes. It's best to choose universally appealing, easy-to-read designs for mainstream audiences, while a more customized approach is needed when designing for specific groups like people with visual disabilities.

A good example of inclusive design is the BBC's website. It uses an accessible color palette designed with color-blind users in mind, and offers a high contrast mode for those with limited vision.

Color blindness impacts a considerable percentage of the global population (around 8% of men and 0.5% of women), so designers should only partially depend on color to convey information. Instead, we should utilize resources like Google's Material Design Color Tool or the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker to evaluate designs, supplementing color with other visual cues such as text size or weight variations.

Here’s a great piece from a person with Daltonism, explaining how they perceive colors and their impact on their daily activities, including tasks as (seemingly) simple as booking a flight.

Color Psychology and User Perception

Beyond enhancing readability and accessibility, color also plays a crucial role in influencing user perceptions and behaviors. Different colors can provoke diverse emotions and responses in users. By harnessing the knowledge of color psychology, designers can utilize typography color to subtly steer user actions, thereby enriching the overall user experience.

For instance, many digital platforms, such as Microsoft Windows, use red for error messages and alerts. This effectively attracts attention and conveys a sense of urgency or caution.

Interestingly, Netflix also has a shade of red in the logo and main headers, but for a different reason. In their context, red sparks emotions, creating a sense of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement.

The Influence of Typography Color on “Look and Feel”

Typography color greatly affects the “look and feel” of a digital product. It shapes the overall aesthetics and atmosphere of a website or an application, often setting the stage for the user experience.

For example, Facebook's choice of a soothing blue for its typography and branding was a strategic choice influenced by Mark Zuckerberg's red-green color blindness. Contrastingly, Spotify utilizes a vibrant green for its typography, establishing a dynamic and contemporary vibe.

Therefore, the color of typography doesn't simply impact readability but also communicates the brand's persona and shapes the user's perception of the brand's identity and philosophy.

Using Colors to Prioritize Information on Websites

Typography color is also an effective tool for prioritizing information on a webpage, directing the user's attention to crucial elements. Headings and subheadings regularly employ darker shades or contrasting colors to differentiate them from the primary text. Likewise, links, buttons, and call-to-action phrases may feature a distinct color to stand out, encouraging user engagement.

Typography Color: A Key Responsibility of UX Designers

As UX designers, we are critical in shaping software products to be visually appealing, user-friendly, inclusive, and engaging. Our expertise in choosing typography color palettes allows us to balance aesthetics, functionality, and accessibility.

And I believe that the influence of typography color extends beyond design. It also has significant business implications. Users are more likely to engage with the software when attracted to an aesthetically pleasing and easily readable interface. This engagement ultimately leads to positive outcomes for the business as a whole.

If you're interested in understanding the vital role UX—and consequently typography—plays in the business success of a product, I encourage you to check this short piece written by my colleague Dawid.

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