Blog

The thoughts, opinions, happenings, and just plain ramblings of a seemingly boring person.

Rant: Why Wash the Colours Away?

iTunes left menu interface comparison, new washed out version 10 colours on the left, the previous version on the rightIn terms of computer and application interfaces (either hardware or software) I'm pretty critical of a lot of 'fashion' or 'trendy' changes that have absolutely no practical improvement, and especially those that are in my opinion completely unpractical.

Years ago I criticised Apple's fashion of white that permeated to most other technology manufacturers and into society in general.

Now it seems there is a general shift to washing away colours from program interfaces. One thing we were taught in interface design at uni (although that was a while ago), is that in addition to logically and easily shaped and recognisable icons, different icon/menu-item colours have been proven to increase recall and efficiency in users interacting with an interface.

Apple again seems to be leading this impractical push to wash away colours, highlighted by last year's change to remove all the colour differentiation from the iTunes left menu (the new and old menus are pictured). Instead of the previous coloured menu items (shown on the right), all the icons are now a uniform grey (shown on the left).

Also annoyingly Google seems to be following the trend too. Their upcoming new interfaces for their online products now seem devoid of colour except for orange-highlights. One usage backstep, among many, is that in the Gmail email-list the default label titles used to be a greenish colour, which made them stand it out from the email's subject line. In the new interface the default label title colour is the same colour as the subject line, differentiated only by a slight change in text size and a very obscure grey background shading. As before, you can change manually change the label colour, but to change the colour of every label you have just to make the titles stand out from the email subject would be tedious in the extreme.

To me, washing out previously useful and distinguishable interface colours serves absolutely no purpose, and in my opinion is even detrimental to user efficiency and usability.

Leave a comment