Skip links

Designing UX for the Color Blind

Jump To Section

Color blindness is a very common condition in people. It’s the inability in some individuals to recognize the difference in color due to malfunction of their color photopigments.

Color Blindness:Impact on Design

Color blindness is a very common condition in people. It’s the inability of some individuals to recognize the difference in color due to the malfunction of their color photopigments. How common is this problem? Here are some statistics on designing for color blindness:

An estimated 253 million people live with vision impairment: 36 million are blind and 217 million have moderate to severe vision
impairment.

Color is one of the most important elements of design. Worldwide, colors are used to depict several things – emotions, importance, progress, concern, and so on. However, humans don’t experience the exact same color vision. Color is an outcome of the brain translating light received by our retinal cones. This makes us see colors in different ways.

What I see as red may not be perceived the same way as you see. Sometimes, this situation is more tragic. Defects in the cones can lead to extreme defects in color vision, that makes some people mistake shades or altogether lose the ability to differentiate colors.

There are several reasons that can lead to this situation. The most common color blindness happens with the loss or limited function of the red or green cone photopigments. For example, in the case of deuteranopia, where the green cone cells are not functioning, there will be no vision of a green and its constituent colors.

Similarly, with protanopia where the red cones stop working. Blue-yellow blindness is rarer than red-green. But the rarest type is complete color blindness or monochromacy. Monochromatic people differentiate color only through brightness. Their world is all in black and white. And this creates a unique problem for User Interface design.

Looking at the numbers of people who experience color blindness, this becomes a very important aspect when designing products. If this is not considered, it may render a lot of products completely unusable to color-blind users, which means a substantial loss for the business and discomfort to people. Here a nervous designer cowers, “I need to design a site from scratch in one week,” the designer says. “and you give me another problem to solve? I don’t have time for this!” Don’t worry, it’s not so bad.

Here are some simple and easy-to-follow ground rules.

Colorblind people are not able to distinguish tones (red, yellow, blue, green, etc.). But they see the same image as people with normal vision.

Comparison of the perception by a human with a regular vision versus a human with protanopia. The red completely disappears in the photo on the right.

When designing UI this leads to a bunch of problems – unreadable text, unnoticeable buttons, etc.

You can’t trust colors

Color isn’t omnipotent, you shouldn’t expect that it can solve all of your problems alone. But a proper base color is able to beautify UI and improve UX.

Statistically speaking most people with a moderate form of red/green color blindness will only be able to identify accurately 5 or so colored pencils from a standard box of 24 pencil crayons.

Any color designation can be supplemented with a caption or an icon so that the object preserves its function no matter what happens with colors. For example, because protanopia leads to an inability to see red color, it becomes difficult to correct form if the designer uses only red to indicate mistakes. A better solution is to supplement color with a caption or an icon.

Designing for color blindness

Use patterns or texture to show the contrast

Too many patterns and texture bring a lot of noise, so it’s better to use too much. Slack, for example, offers users special accessible themes that change all colors of the user interface.

UX Colors Load Balancers
Do not have color names appear on hovering because that does not really solve the problem while using it from a mobile device. The best way of representation is as below:

Texture to show the contrast
This maintains a fine balance between giving only colors for selecting AND not leaving the users to take a minute to relate to the color by giving only the name.

Use patterns

Sometimes it’s a good idea to add patterns and textures to emphasize the contrast between objects.

Use Patterns Designing UX
Theme for color blindness

Make it look good in the grayscale

Try out your design on a grayscale. If everything is visible distinctly in grayscale, there is a pretty good chance it will work for the color-blind users.

One of the best examples of this is Google Maps. Despite using red and green for busy and no traffic, use colors of pretty different hues, allowing color blind people to see the differences pretty well.

Make it look good in the grayscale

Avoid the complete no-no color combos

Be color-smart when picking your combinations. Since color blindness affects people in different ways, it’s difficult to determine which colors are ‘safe’ to use in web design. Here are a few color combinations that should be a complete no-no while choosing the pallet:

Green & Red Green
& Brown Blue &
Purple Green & Blue
Light Green & Yellow
Blue & Grey
Green & Grey
Green & Black

Finally, design for all

Creating an accessible user interface doesn’t require a lot of additional time. Empathizing with end-users and their way of consuming information, can, in turn, help us to create a final product that’s fully accessible & usable.

Antony Selvaraj

Antony Selvaraj

Latest Reads

Subscribe

Suggested Reading

Ready to Unlock Yours Enterprise's Full Potential?

Adaptive Clinical Trial Designs: Modify trials based on interim results for faster identification of effective drugs.Identify effective drugs faster with data analytics and machine learning algorithms to analyze interim trial results and modify.
Real-World Evidence (RWE) Integration: Supplement trial data with real-world insights for drug effectiveness and safety.Supplement trial data with real-world insights for drug effectiveness and safety.
Biomarker Identification and Validation: Validate biomarkers predicting treatment response for targeted therapies.Utilize bioinformatics and computational biology to validate biomarkers predicting treatment response for targeted therapies.
Collaborative Clinical Research Networks: Establish networks for better patient recruitment and data sharing.Leverage cloud-based platforms and collaborative software to establish networks for better patient recruitment and data sharing.
Master Protocols and Basket Trials: Evaluate multiple drugs in one trial for efficient drug development.Implement electronic data capture systems and digital platforms to efficiently manage and evaluate multiple drugs or drug combinations within a single trial, enabling more streamlined drug development
Remote and Decentralized Trials: Embrace virtual trials for broader patient participation.Embrace telemedicine, virtual monitoring, and digital health tools to conduct remote and decentralized trials, allowing patients to participate from home and reducing the need for frequent in-person visits
Patient-Centric Trials: Design trials with patient needs in mind for better recruitment and retention.Develop patient-centric mobile apps and web portals that provide trial information, virtual support groups, and patient-reported outcome tracking to enhance patient engagement, recruitment, and retention
Regulatory Engagement and Expedited Review Pathways: Engage regulators early for faster approvals.Utilize digital communication tools to engage regulatory agencies early in the drug development process, enabling faster feedback and exploration of expedited review pathways for accelerated approvals
Companion Diagnostics Development: Develop diagnostics for targeted recruitment and personalized treatment.Implement bioinformatics and genomics technologies to develop companion diagnostics that can identify patient subpopulations likely to benefit from the drug, aiding in targeted recruitment and personalized treatment
Data Standardization and Interoperability: Ensure seamless data exchange among research sites.Utilize interoperable electronic health record systems and health data standards to ensure seamless data exchange among different research sites, promoting efficient data aggregation and analysis
Use of AI and Predictive Analytics: Apply AI for drug candidate identification and data analysis.Leverage AI algorithms and predictive analytics to analyze large datasets, identify potential drug candidates, optimize trial designs, and predict treatment outcomes, accelerating the drug development process
R&D Investments: Improve the drug or expand indicationsUtilize computational modelling and simulation techniques to accelerate drug discovery and optimize drug development processes