The Monochrome Trend

Literature & Latte’s Keith Blount makes an important point about using color in user interface design:

As Joni Mitchell sang, you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone (although in all fairness she was talking about trees rather than colours in icons, and I’d concede that trees might be a little more important). When Apple decided to drain the icons in these programs of their colour, I learned something about the way my brain works that I hadn’t hitherto ever had to think about: my brain is an awful lot faster at processing colours than it is at processing shapes.

I’ve written about the importance of color in my book:

From a usability perspective, using color is beneficial. Colors make things easier to perceive. Our brains are really good at doing tasks such as “find the green icon on this screen.” In [his book] Information Visualization, Colin Ware notes that color is “preattentively processed,” meaning that we identify color before we give it conscious attention. In other words, when we look at a user interface, we can find and identify user interface elements with a specific color really quickly and easily.

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designed for use cover

But wait, there's more!

Want to read more like this? Buy my book's second edition! Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web is now available DRM-free directly from The Pragmatic Programmers. Or you can get it on Amazon, where it's also available in Chinese and Japanese.