Mastery of Color Usage

Designing Websites for All — including for color-blinded people

Seattle Web Design
8 min readMay 22, 2024

Creating websites accessible to all users is crucial for delivering an optimal digital experience. Color blindness presents a significant challenge for many individuals, impacting their ability to perceive specific colors in a “normal” manner. This condition can make distinguishing between specific colors, mainly red and green or blue and yellow, complicated or even result in a reduced range of color vision. With a considerable portion of the population affected by color blindness, web designers must consider this demographic when developing their web designs.

Understanding the unique challenges faced by colorblind users and using appropriate design strategies, such as utilizing high-contrast colors, offering text alternatives, and avoiding color-dependent navigation, is essential. Mastery of color usage will help web designers recognize its potential to enhance or hinder website usability. It is vital for web designers aiming to attract a broader audience and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. This post will explore the best practices and methods for crafting website accessibility for colorblind individuals.

Understanding Colorblindness

Understanding how colorblind individuals see colors is essential in crafting a website that is inclusive and accessible to all users. Color blindness can happen when one or more of the color cone cells are absent, not working, or detecting a different color than normal, for individuals with color blindness, colors such as red-green or blue-yellow can make distinguishing between those colors challenging. They may appear similar or completely unrecognizable. Different opacities in a color can also cause difficulties for colorblind individuals.

While color blindness typically doesn’t impact daily activities, it can significantly impact how color-blind individuals interact with digital content. Web designers who know about colorblindness and how affected individuals perceive color can help tailor their websites to be more user-friendly for everyone, regardless of their color vision abilities. This approach is not only for color-blind individuals but also enhances the overall usability and effectiveness of the website.

Importance of Color Accessibility in Web Design

The main goal of website design should be making a website user-friendly, as this helps reach a wider audience. In today’s digital age, a significant amount of information is processed visually. A website’s accessibility can make or break its success. Website users make quick judgments within seconds of being on a website. Web designers need to ensure that every aspect of the design is accessible.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were established to guarantee that web content is accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or devices. Following these guidelines is important for creating an inclusive online environment where all users can navigate and engage with a website.

A website must have the text and interactive element color contrast at least 4:5:1 to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. 4:5:1 is the minimum recommended contrast ratio between foreground text and its background. This ensures readability for individuals with color vision deficiencies, such as color blindness. By implementing such a stark color contrast, websites can enhance accessibility and ensure that all users, including those with visual impairments.

Best Practices for Designing Accessible Websites

Working with a stark color contrast is essential for designing accessible websites and adding alternative text (alt text) to images. Alt text not only assists screen readers in describing visual content but also benefits color-blind individuals by providing context about the colors within the image. Understanding an image can make users feel more connected with the website design, so the user stays on the website longer. Making the navigation not based on color alone. Visual cues, such as shapes or text labels, help usability for individuals with color blindness. Using a simple black-and-white scheme for navigation can be just as effective. It helps with clarity and accessibility for color-blind users. Keeping these practices in mind for web design can make UI elements more color-blind-friendly.

Designing Colorblind-Friendly UI Elements

Web designers can consider many UI elements when designing websites for colorblind individuals. One thing they do when planning a website is think of color and create a color palette. It is best to use three colors: a primary color, a secondary color, and an accent color. 60% of the website will be the primary color, 30% the secondary color, and 10% the accent color.

There are a few color combinations to avoid when using color as a UI element:

  • green and red
  • green and blue
  • green and brown
  • green and black
  • green and grey
  • blue and grey
  • light green and yellow
  • blue and purple

A lot of the time, these colors are hard to distinguish for color-blind individuals. There can be times when designing a website for a client, and the client doesn’t want to choose high-contrast colors. Adding patterns and textures can help color-blind individuals differentiate different parts. When colors have low contrast, using alt text can be very helpful for color-blind individuals to understand even more efficiently. Understanding how to make a website’s UI elements more colorblind friend or just more accessible can benefit the website in so many ways.

Case Studies of Accessible Web Design

A website called Reverie Retreat revamped its whole website. Reverie Retreat hired a website design company called Access Design Studio to redesign the website completely. All the website UI elements were redesigned and improved for people of all abilities. Since the redesign, their site has increased traffic, and over half of their booking comes from the website instead of a 3rd party. Case studies like this can show how having an accessible, friendly website can benefit UI elements and reach a broader range of users. During the design process, increasing visitors to the website may not be the goal.

Domino’s Pizza had a costly Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit, and a user could not use a screen reader to order a pizza online. The online user tried to call the store to put in their order but could not reach anyone. Keeping in mind web design for accessibility can help avoid situations like this one. Not all redesigns can be positive, but they are necessary for all users to interact.

Tools and Resources for Testing Color Accessibility

Knowing what tools to use can significantly help the design process, starting with designing. Color contrast is a big thing when designing a website for the color blind. Adobe Color has a contrast checker to ensure color choices are as accessible. Adobe Color will show web designers the colors used as regular text and large text and if the colors are used as a graphic component. The color contrast is hard to pick if one color is already decided; Adobe Color will recommend the user contrast suggestions. Adobe Color saves the color palette for later; web designers could create several color palettes for color-blind web design.

Remember, it is best to have a 4:5:1 contrast ratio. Color Hexa is another website with a helpful tool for picking colors for a website to make sure it is color-blind accessible. When looking for a specific color on the website, there is a section for a color blindness simulator. Using the color blindness simulator can make picking the color palette for the website design more mindful. The color may look pleasing to someone without color blindness but entirely different for someone with color blindness. Using these color tools makes picking a color palette easier than trying to remember a list of what colors not to use.

Future Trends in Color Accessibility

Remembering a list of colors can be challenging, and everyday accessibility is changing. When the Internet first came around, there were no Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Also, the Internet could have been more visual than it is today. How we use the internet now and how it was even used ten years ago is different. Design trends are constantly changing. Using bold colors is a design trend. Incorporating bold colors in web design will help get that big contrast needed when designing a website for the color blind. Gradients are another design trend going around. Ensuring that the contrast between gradient colors is sufficient for text readability is essential. Especially since automatic accessibility scans may not detect the actual background color, taking time to utilize tools like Adobe Color can aid in achieving the necessary contrast for both design styles/trends.

As technology evolves and user experience changes, the importance of color accessibility continues to grow. What was considered visually appealing or trendy in the past may not meet current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Web Designers must be adaptable to these changes by staying current with the latest guidelines and trends/techniques for creating the best web design for color-blind individuals. This not only promotes inclusivity. As a web designer, it also strengthens user activity on the website created and satisfaction. It ultimately led to tremendous success when creating a website for a business or just for fun.

Final Thoughts

This guide explored the best practices and methods for crafting website accessibility for colorblind individuals. Mastering color usage in web design is essential for creating inclusive and accessible websites for all users, including those with color blindness. By understanding the challenges faced by colorblind individuals and implementing appropriate design strategies such as high-contrast colors and alternative text for images, web designers can enhance the usability and effectiveness of their websites. Following Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) ensures that websites are accessible to everyone, regardless of their disabilities. Avoiding color-dependent navigation and designing color-blind-friendly UI elements that contribute to a more user-friendly experience are some of the best practices for creating a website for the color-blind.

Case studies from Reverie Retreat and Dominos highlight the negatives and positives of accessible web design, from increased website traffic to legal compliance. Utilizing Adobe Color and Color Hexa will help the design process and ensure that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) meet accessibility standards. As design trends evolve, bold colors and gradients must be incorporated thoughtfully to maintain sufficient contrast and readability for all users.

The Internet’s overall goal is to make it usable by everyone. By prioritizing color accessibility, web designers can create more inclusive digital experiences that benefit a broader audience and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.