Jump to content
Our response time is longer than usual currently. We're working to answer users as quickly as possible and thank you for your continued patience.

What ergonomic design principles call for minimal contrast and reduced readability in user interfaces?


Recommended Posts

Affinity 2 user interfaces seem less readable than in Affinity 1. Difficulties with discerning what is on the screen have been described in numerous posts in several threads in these forums.

I'm willing to attribute some of my difficulties to my aging eyes, though dozens of other applications do not cause me problems. I have also noticed in recent years that it is fashionable to make printed publications less readable by using dark gray or dark blue text on black backgrounds and even worse. I also find the controls on the dashboard of my 2014 Honda Accord to be far less usable than the controls on my 1998 Accord. The 1998 controls could be set almost entirely by touch. The 2014 controls, which consist of rows of identical buttons, require actually looking at the dash to first find the needed control and then to make the desired adjustment.

This leads me to ask three questions in regard to user interface design:

1.) What principles of ergonomic design suggest that reducing visibility/contrast/distinctiveness produces a better user experience?

2.) What advantages accrue to the user through the use of very low contrast and very low distinctness in the user interface? 

3.) Do reduced contrast and easily-confused icons reduce the possibilities for user error?

Perhaps those in the graphical design business could educate me about this.

Affinity Photo 2.0.4 (MSI) and 1.10.6; Affinity Publisher 2.0.4 (MSI) and 1.10.6. Windows 10 Home x64 version 22H2.
Dell XPS 8940, 16 GB Ram, Intel Core i7-11700K @ 3.60 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to be a progression from the "modern" borderless window/button UI stylings.  That's not a justification or a validation, just an explanation.

It's clear you write your questions with considerable sarcasm, or at least tongue firmly planted in cheek.  So I will play straight man and reply "None", "None" and "No, quite the contrary."

IMO, this is a clear defeat for Usability at the cruel hands of Style.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Granddaddy said:

Affinity 2 user interfaces seem less readable than in Affinity 1. Difficulties with discerning what is on the screen have been described in numerous posts in several threads in these forums.

I'm willing to attribute some of my difficulties to my aging eyes, though dozens of other applications do not cause me problems.

I agree. I was planning on posting similar thoughts after the volume of posts due to the v2 launch subsided.

I initially chalked up my difficulties with the v2 UI to my aging eyes, which I’m sure is a contributing factor, but it dawned on me, as well, that I don’t have trouble with any other app that I use.

I hope Serif will take another look at the UI and consider making improvements… especially to the contrast.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Granddaddy,

It's come to our attention that you're not paying attention to the times. The times, they are a-changin'.

For instance, all tools are less better than them was befores.

Nows we has more reasons to do less, slower, and do it worse, too.

This is progress, man. Get with it!

This has/is/was compensation for relative wages going down for 40 years.

You're welcome!

Also, populism, in democracy, is now absolute badness. The baddestnessest. 

Orange is no longer a colour or a fruit. It's an adjective for the devil in a skin suit fuelled by KFC™, Pepsi™ and recreational golf. 

It's not all bad. Men can now have babies. And maternity leave, man!

Also, it's getting warmer, apparently. Which should be good, but isn't, because colder would be worster. Or something about hockey sticks and The Mann, according to Steyn. 

And that's before we get to semantic changes. Words really are changin', man. Nobody knows what a woman is, anymore. Safe and effective are words subject to only relativity determined by those using them for their own purposes. 

Objectivity is old, man.

In with the new.

Also, journalism died with Chesterton, but that's not yet been reported.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

which one is easier to read,

this one

or this one

... but that's no argument to turn everything up to font size 30. There's a "high contrast" setting in Windows, butt ugly, but very readable.

One thing that has changed is that a lot of people these days prefer dark mode, and #FFFFFF white is harsh in there.

Sure, I certainly wish that more designers would consider legibility, not just aesthetics. But most of the Affinity GUI is still fair... let's not write too harshly, or the forums will be styled like AP2 > Help > About :)

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/20/2022 at 6:31 PM, sfriedberg said:

It seems to be a progression from the "modern" borderless window/button UI stylings.  That's not a justification or a validation, just an explanation.

...

IMO, this is a clear defeat for Usability at the cruel hands of Style.

Yes, this was exactly my first thought.

Websites have gotten progressively harder to read and navigate over the years, and this seems an extension of it. Less contrast and unnecessarily small fonts. The absence of depth (and other visual) cues, and the overuse of increasingly cryptic icons. The proliferation of huge graphics with excessive whitespace even on massive monitors leading to ridiculously low information density and the need to scroll constantly. The optimization for mobile devices at the expense of desktops. All of this contributes demonstrably to lower productivity, but hey, it's in fashion so who is anyone to argue?

Fortunately, only a few of these design trends are evident in the Affinity suite, but still, it's unfortunate.

Granted, my eyesight isn't nearly what it once was, when I was the same age as today's graphic designers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When style is prioritised over usability, users needs, are put second place, and aesthetics that are deeply connected to the egos of the stylists and graphics designers are put first. Designers who consider themselves artists feel entitled to flout usability guidelines and heuristics in order to pursue their personal preferences. The presumption of artistic integrity by designers is a common pitfall for them to meeting users' needs for clear screen design and intuitive interface navigation.

Redesigning a highly usable interface due to fashion concerns is a sure path to repeated degradation. A "new", "clean", "sleek" or "modern" look will soon look old fashioned no matter what it looks like, but its usability will not be diminished just because fashion is fickel. Marketing people probably also have a hand in insisting that interfaces need to be kept fashionable, but what do they know about interface design? Developers' time should not be wasted on fashion concerns, especially when the resulting interface ends up with lower usability than could otherwise easily be achieved with a stronger colour palette and better contrast. The Gestalt Theorists work explored in great detail the basis of how we perceive graphics. Perhaps that too has been ditched because it isn't fashionable. Human cognition isn't a fashion commodity. Please don't treat it as one. 

MacBook Pro, Retina, mid-2015, macOS Monteray, RAM: 16 GB, CPU Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 2,8 GHz. Monitor: 27" (3840 × 2160) DELL U2723QE 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There seems to be quite a few variants of "greys" as far as text (at least in dark mode). It's not consistently adjusted by the text contrast feature. It looks more like V1 in some places, but other places it still reads as grey or "greyed out". I'm not having issues with reading but my screen is sizeable and I don't have vision issues. My issue is that the different tones in both texts and iconography create a weird hierarchy when scanning the screen and so I'm finding myself having to slow down a lot when flipping through the UI to read/re-recognize things. Especially if I'm not looking at the screen straight on, which is common for leaning over to read something or to reach for mouse out of way of keyboard and Wacom. I'm using an IPS, and it's definitely hard to read even at a slight viewing angle compared to other apps.

Change dark mode to darkest setting on Windows desktop and raising text contrast to create pseudo high contrast layout... this is what I see:

image.thumb.png.97771f1f058fd7935fe77e218c574a64.png

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (Build 19045)
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X @ 3.8Ghz (-30 all core +200mhz PBO); Mobo: Asus X470 Prime Pro
32GB DDR4 (3600Mhz)
EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 3080 X3C Ultra 12GB
Monitor 1 4K @ 125%; Monitor 2 @ 150%

WACOM Intuos4 Large; X-rite i1Display Pro; NIKON D5600 DSLR

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, debraspicher said:

Change dark mode to darkest setting on Windows desktop and raising text contrast to create pseudo high contrast layout

Using UI Style Dark,  select Edit/Preferences/User Interface/UI Contrast: High

Notice that the tabs for open images all become black and indistinguishable one from another because the text is equally bright on all tabs. Thus, one cannot know which tab is active or has the focus.

Tabs on Studio Panels blend one into another.

In APhoto 1, highlighting of buttons was the opposite of highlighting of tabs for open images in APhoto 1. Activating a button (like Snapping) made it's background darker (black) while selecting an open image tab made the tab lighter. This inconsistent behavior continues in APhoto 2.

Using UI Contrast High in APhoto 2 causes the button background to blend into the UI background making it impossible to tell whether the button is active or not. Thus, it is difficult/impossible to know whether snapping is on or off by looking at the button.

Using UI Contrast High in APhoto 2 causes the image tabs to become pretty much indistinguishable as black on black so it is unclear which tab is active.

Similarly the UI Contrast High setting makes it difficult/impossible to know which tool is active on the Tools panel. Black on black is not really any contrast at all. (Of course some tools have distinct mouse pointers to tell us what tool is active.)

We conclude that the UI Contrast High setting actually reduces contrast for many UI elements. 

APhoto 2 Help says:

UI Contrast—instantly sets Text Contrast and UI Brightness for high contrast between text and window backgrounds, or to their default values.

This seems to work as described, but it certainly does not produce higher contrast for most UI elements.

Affinity Photo 2.0.4 (MSI) and 1.10.6; Affinity Publisher 2.0.4 (MSI) and 1.10.6. Windows 10 Home x64 version 22H2.
Dell XPS 8940, 16 GB Ram, Intel Core i7-11700K @ 3.60 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's like they were working on new features for a V1 update, but decided to make it V2 so they haphazardly changed a bunch of colors and slapped together a new icon set so they could say V2 has a "completely redesigned UI that will optimize your workflow" to help justify it being a full version upgrade.

Anyone remember when Visual Studio decided to make every letter in all the menus uppercase? That went over almost as well.

On 11/21/2022 at 12:20 AM, deeds said:

The bigger question:

 

was the new UI designed in the new versions of Affinity Suite during their beta phase?

 

Either way, the answer will be of great interest, me thunks. 

As if they did beta testing.🤣🤣🤣

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, ChopperNova said:

Anyone remember when Visual Studio decided to make every letter in all the menus uppercase? That went over almost as well.

I've been blessed with always being able to avoid Visual Studio, but do remember the Microsoft Ribbon fiasco. Fun times.

 

And Visual Studio Code... ouch.

And Windows Millennium. And Vista.

Nintendo gets things wrong every second generation (Wii U the last). Microsoft seems to get things right every fourth or fifth generation. Windows 2000/XP then 7... and now we await 12.

Affinity deferring to anything Microsoft (flat UI, MSIX, Windows Store etc) is a mistake.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We're talking more about accessibility here than usability.

Usability is the profession of making (software in our case) as usable as possible, while accessibility is the profession of making it usable for people with disabilities and age-related visual impairments, which will affect the vast majority with age to a greater or lesser extent. In other words, a fairly large percentage of customers and potential customers. 

Now you can consider how accessible PDFs Publisher 2 produces (which in the European Union are regulatory requirements that will spread globally as the world matures). I don't know, but I have a gut feeling now...

Usability is subject to many interpretations and misinterpretations - but accessibility is entirely on the terms of individual disabilities, and so companies just have to follow the fairly simple guidelines: 
https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/non-web-ict/

For contrast, the guidelines are so easy to understand that children can learn and follow them.

 1) You have completely wrecked the layers panel, Serif.

2) I recommend Reddit groups instead of this forum. Not the same few bot-like users replying to everything, a wider representation of users, fewer fanboys, more qualified users. In short, better!

3) I was here to report bugs and submit improvement requests for professional work professionally in a large setup and to bring a lot of knowledge from the world, i.e. professional product development, web- and software development, usability, user experience design and accessibility. I actually know what I am talking about!

BUT! We are phasing out Designer and Affinity in 2022 Q1 - and replacing it with feature complete and algorithmically competent alternatives.
Publisher is unsuitable for serious use, and was never adopted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, François R said:

We're talking more about accessibility here than usability.

Not sure that I see it this way (no pun intended). It feels more on the usability end of the spectrum.

The problems that people are describing seem to suggest that even people without disabilities (or age-related visual impairments) are having difficulties. Yes, it can vary according to the visual capabilities of the user, but also with the size and color management/calibration of the display and lighting conditions.

If someone doesn't have a need to resort to accessibility features when using their OS or other applications, but does in Affinity, that suggests a usability issue. But no matter how you characterize it, it sounds like a problem.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

29 minutes ago, Corgi said:

Not sure that I see it this way (no pun intended). It feels more on the usability end of the spectrum.

The problems that people are describing seem to suggest that even people without disabilities (or age-related visual impairments) are having difficulties. Yes, it can vary according to the visual capabilities of the user, but also with the size and color management/calibration of the display and lighting conditions.

If someone doesn't have a need to resort to accessibility features when using their OS or other applications, but does in Affinity, that suggests a usability issue. But no matter how you characterize it, it sounds like a problem.

You don't have to agree, but I'm right. 🙂 It's not a subject I just read up on.

Accessibility is not only about usability for people with disabilities, but it is their needs that are catered for the most, as many cannot use software at all without assistance. So at the extreme, it's very much about including them in society without restrictions.

But accessibility as a starting point is the part about how your BODY can handle an interface, and thus all of us. You'd be surprised how many people, even the very young (kids included), need a crystal clear interface in terms of contrast, color and size. This has surprised me throughout my professional career, and through all the relationships I have had.

So accessibility is about vision, motor skills, hearing, etc. And here we have a lot of customers reporting back about problems decoding the interface with their sight. Ergo, accessibility.

 1) You have completely wrecked the layers panel, Serif.

2) I recommend Reddit groups instead of this forum. Not the same few bot-like users replying to everything, a wider representation of users, fewer fanboys, more qualified users. In short, better!

3) I was here to report bugs and submit improvement requests for professional work professionally in a large setup and to bring a lot of knowledge from the world, i.e. professional product development, web- and software development, usability, user experience design and accessibility. I actually know what I am talking about!

BUT! We are phasing out Designer and Affinity in 2022 Q1 - and replacing it with feature complete and algorithmically competent alternatives.
Publisher is unsuitable for serious use, and was never adopted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, François R said:

You don't have to agree, but I'm right. 🙂 It's not a subject I just read up on.

Accessibility is not only about usability for people with disabilities, but it is their needs that are catered for the most, as many cannot use software at all without assistance. So at the extreme, it's very much about including them in society without restrictions.

But accessibility as a starting point is the part about how your BODY can handle an interface, and thus all of us. You'd be surprised how many people, even the very young (kids included), need a crystal clear interface in terms of contrast, color and size. This has surprised me throughout my professional career, and through all the relationships I have had.

So accessibility is about vision, motor skills, hearing, etc. And here we have a lot of customers reporting back about problems decoding the interface with their sight. Ergo, accessibility.

Well, see, now I mostly agree with you, because it feels like you just expanded your definition of accessibility beyond what you had suggested in your prior post:

Quote

while accessibility is the profession of making it usable for people with disabilities and age-related visual impairments

Although I do recall also seeing a variety of complaints about the location and behavior of various interface elements (beyond size and contrast), which are more clearly in the usability category.

Wikipedia definition of Accessibility: Accessibility is the design of products, devices, services, vehicles, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities

Edited by Corgi
Added definition of Accessibility
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is one of those things of, it's on the internet, so it must be true. I see it both ways to some degree, but I feel like it's a usability issue simply because I think it impacts people beyond disabilities. I'm using the software more and getting headaches from scanning and it's just because the contrast is causing more eyestrain. Maybe people with vision issues have the most trouble with it, but I feel like for people who work quickly and multi-task heavily, low contrast would slow them down too and cause more eye strain...

Both my screens are set to a lower brightness so it is closer to print and I shouldn't have to feel like I need to turn up my displays... which would lead to more eyestrain with two large displays.

Microsoft Windows 10 Home (Build 19045)
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X @ 3.8Ghz (-30 all core +200mhz PBO); Mobo: Asus X470 Prime Pro
32GB DDR4 (3600Mhz)
EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 3080 X3C Ultra 12GB
Monitor 1 4K @ 125%; Monitor 2 @ 150%

WACOM Intuos4 Large; X-rite i1Display Pro; NIKON D5600 DSLR

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This goes far, far beyond simplistic Wikipedia definitions and web lookups and "I think" and "I feel that" and "I use". I have said mine based on knowledge derived from professional work with products and software were implementing accessibility for any type of disability is a legal requirement. No compliance, no deal. It sharpens the attention.

The target audience is EVERYONE in my entire country and others of course. The number of people with significant disabilities is not that large, but the number of people with more common impairments - including of course poor eyesight or age-related deterioration - very large. Thus very, very relevant.

It all centers on whether the user interface prevents people from accessing the product - or hinders access. Hence, accessibility.

The one tool to accommodate everyone's needs is an accessibility minimum standard, and there are even several levels of it. When you start designing purposefully and professionally to this standard, it helps all groups that don't have perfectly functioning bodies. It is therefore also about responsibility.

I've also worked for years on usability in designs and software. Here everything is about users understanding the interface, and whether lack of understanding of user needs or lack of insight into user journeys ruins the user experience, hence the work of user experience designers (usability). Another discipline.

I don't doubt for a second that Serif Software needs to hire one to several specialists in both. It's more than obvious.

Accessibility I actually happen to be working on improving just from this week at my work. I currently have tools to assist with this, but we also recruit companies in to get an unbiased assessment and perform accessibility user testing. So, you must understand that it annoys me greatly and does not impress me in the least, and in fact makes me angry when companies in 2022 still cannot recognize or understand the need for this and turn their backs on it. And obviously that has consequences for customers, right? It became clearer than ever with v2.

But nothing is so bad that it is not good for something. That annoyance and anger will motivate me tomorrow when I have to make an effort for our users. But no one can help Serif's customers, apparently. It requires a job offer at Serif and a change of mentality and some humility towards other professions.

And now I've contributed enough of my time to the topic (as a warm-up to my own work week).

There is no rocket science involved. Just actually doing it professionally and assisted by professionals.

I'm not writing this to waste time on the internet. I'm trying to wake someone up, and make sure that people for whom the interface complicates their use of Affinity don't stand alone against the limitless number of posts based on assertions and lack of knowledge. And then those who apparently always have to reply no matter what.

👋

 1) You have completely wrecked the layers panel, Serif.

2) I recommend Reddit groups instead of this forum. Not the same few bot-like users replying to everything, a wider representation of users, fewer fanboys, more qualified users. In short, better!

3) I was here to report bugs and submit improvement requests for professional work professionally in a large setup and to bring a lot of knowledge from the world, i.e. professional product development, web- and software development, usability, user experience design and accessibility. I actually know what I am talking about!

BUT! We are phasing out Designer and Affinity in 2022 Q1 - and replacing it with feature complete and algorithmically competent alternatives.
Publisher is unsuitable for serious use, and was never adopted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In this case, accessibility/usability seems a distinction without a difference. The word disability itself has its own various contextual meanings, but word definitions miss the point: V2 is less pleasant to view for reasons given above. It also uses some non-standard contrasting on buttons, as @Granddaddy detailed quite well elsewhere.

Computer science is a science, part of which being how people perceive user interfaces; there's actual empirical data supporting what makes good design. The whole purpose of GUI visual design is to quickly provide information to the most different types of brains, through the most different types of eyes, in the most intuitive and efficient way possible. It's not to look cool in a YouTube video.  And FFS, icons aren't decorations.

Hence, a well-designed GUI will take into account imperfect vision by definition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Please note there is currently a delay in replying to some post. See pinned thread in the Questions forum. These are the Terms of Use you will be asked to agree to if you join the forum. | Privacy Policy | Guidelines | We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.