Holy cow yes this. I am partially blind, and the web has been careening towards total unusability over the past few years. I knew I was in trouble when Google made Gmail’s design utterly unreadable for me (and apparently a whole lot of others) and only caved and added a high contrast option when people squealed. A lot.
Sad, really. Designers claim they’re designing accessible sites, but they can’t even make their sites readable by folks with anything other than tip top 20/20 vision.
the web has been careening towards total unusability over the past few years
It’s things like this that make a strong argument for using a framework that takes accessibility seriously. If the framework provides things like high contrast colour schemes, text alternatives for glyphs, etc. it makes it a lot easier for developers and designers. Sane defaults in this area are a good thing.
One framework that does is OpenUI5 - eg, ARIA attributes are added to all rendered HTML.
Once I tried using eLinks for most of my browsing for a few months. Obviously half the web does not work in eLinks but I loved having uniform fonts and colors.
Disallowing webfonts dramatically improves a significant portion of the web (basically, all of it that uses webfonts). I assume there are extensions out there to enforce a minimum level of contrast; fortunately for me, my eyesight is quite good, so by the time text contrast is low enough I have difficulty with it, whoever designs and QAs it will be far past the point of illegibility.
In general, the less freedom the web designer has, the better the ultimate design is.
I’ve disabled the ability for websites to use their own fonts in Firefox for years now. However, the last two(?) years icon fonts have become more popular and this again makes websites more unreadable / unusable.
I haven’t found the easiest way to handle this yet. So far I’ve been using the Stylish plugin and enable icon fonts on a per site basis.
FWIW, icon fonts look like they may have been a passing fad, replaced with SVG icons. Most developers now agree it’s much easier to make SVG accessible, and it’s easier to add an icon to an SVG icon set than it is to add an icon to an icon font.
I agree with the author 90% - there is definitely a weird design paradox where recent designs are compromising UX for UI (or function for form, if you prefer). But I’d disagree with the author that all text should be black and backgrounds white - there’s a lot of room within the accessibility guidelines for a reason and we shouldn’t abandon typographic experimentation within a new medium. Web isn’t print, though there’s still a lot we can learn from it.
Experiment, sure! But at the end of the day, if you’re designing an app that needs to be used day in day out by people with all kinds of physical capabilities and challenges, have a care!
(For instance, if you’re Bob Web Developer, and you want to design the most rockin' hipster theme for Bob’s blog, then by all means, go to town with the feathery low contrast unreadable type, but if you’re GOOGLE and you’re redesigning GMail, used by bazillions of people, then maybe keep it readable? :)
Instead it’s the other way around; Bob does everything they can to make their blog accessible so as many people as possible will read it and still only gets 2 regular readers, while Google does whatever they want because people will (have to) use it anyway.
I think you may have missed my point - accessibility guidelines allow for a huge range of design experimentation and innovation (IE, stuff that is not feathery/low contrast). In no way, shape, or form am I advocating for low contrast experiments, especially from a player as large as google, especially on existing applications that aren’t broken.
I’m saying the author was being hyperbolic in the last paragraph when they plead with designers to ‘keep your type black’. There’s more than enough room within common accessibility guidelines to have colored type and still make it work for everyone, including the colorblind.
You’re right, I did miss your point. Thanks for helping me get clear on your intent. I agree entirely. Design is about making a plethora of small decisions that add up to a usable product.
This article does have some nice metrics on contrast, especially the design guideline hypocrisy, but it seems like a color (and branding) issue not a typography issue.
Pretty. But unreadable.
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The color may not be jet black, but the contrast is still good by the standards he promotes. ;)