Using black for the font color in content is boring for a good reason. But first, a kayaking story.
After kayaking for two hours, you can bet my friends and I were famished. We were a short drive away from Keller’s Drive-In. It’s a Dallas institution. The old-school place looks like a scene from “American Graffiti.” Unlike most of today’s drive-ins, you won’t find a speaker, screen, menu, or anything in the space where you park your car.
You have to wait for Keller’s carhop to come to you. Carhops chitchat with customers like they’re old friends. We had to wait a bit. But none of us complains because we know we’re in for some captivating stories. Meanwhile, my friends and I easily passed time chatting in the car.
Long-time Keller’s carhop Taunia Land greeted us. She remembered us from the last time we stopped by after kayaking.
Shortly after ordering, our jaws drop. You’d think we spotted a movie star. Not exactly. But we do see a legend. It was carhop Shirley Ehney who has worked there for almost 50 years.
A restaurant’s user experience
There’s only one menu. And it appears on the front of the restaurant. I certainly couldn’t read it from the car. This is the only time something modern enters comes to play. And it’s my own. Using my phone, I look up the menu online.
Slow service. Unreadable menu. Chipped paint. Dark bathroom. It’s so dark in the bathroom that one friend stood guard with the door ajar while the other went in.
Not exactly the makings for a successful restaurant today.
Still, everyone loves Keller’s for its charm and the experience. What we do get is a poppy seed bun, a tray full of condiments, memorable conversation, and a gosh darn good burger. Apparently, foodies come from all over the country to visit Keller’s.
No one pressures us to move to open up the parking spot for the next customer. We leave when we’re ready. We post pictures online. And here I am still talking about it three years later.
Effects of content on user experience
Keller’s thrives on all the things that would be a big no-no in restaurants. Websites can’t afford to do this. Not in this information-overloaded world.
A lot of websites — including the well-visited ones — fail the legibility test.
Many do this. And they do it on purpose.
Their content looks faint. The text appears in grey on a light background. It’s like reading in a fog.
Or they use a combination of colors without a strong contrast between the background and text.
And that’s not all. The other bad trend is animation or movement on the home page. Dizzying. It’s a problem for people with certain medical conditions.
“But Meryl, if the well-visited websites do it, then how can these legibility issues be a problem?”
My response? How much more traffic and time spent on page would these sites get if they improve readability? Cut the motion. Shorten huge scrolling pages that contain little content.
These moves hurt the user experience.
When I land on a page with light text, I leave.
Motion? I don’t think I’ve ever closed a tab on a website as fast as I do when stumbling on pages that move.
Besides, Colour Blind Awareness says 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women in the world have color blindness. Isn’t contrast worth fixing?
I love the color red. But a red background or red font often hurts the eyes. Try darker shades of red. It works better than #FF0000 red.
Don’t waste your content
You’ll have fans and foes on many factors in website design.
How many of you don’t think that text needs to be legible? Zero, I bet.
And that’s easy to fix.
It’s hard enough to create a content strategy to drive people to your website. Don’t throw away your digital marketing efforts. Don’t lose visitors over this.
Check your content — social media pages included — for these things:
- How are the color choices? (Certain shades of red hurt. They don’t contrast well for color blindness.)
- Is the text instantly readable, like reading in a fog, or needs resizing?
- Is there movement that starts without a prompt?
- How’s the spacing between letters, paragraphs, and headers?
- Are there short blocks of text — one or two sentences — on the screen requiring scrolling to get more?
- Are the links easy to identify?
- Are visited links easy to identify and a different color from unvisited links?
Show it to people outside of the company and see what they think. Heck, contact me and I’ll take a look.
It’s hard to hear criticism. Unfortunately, most clients leave without ever complaining. A customer experience survey by Esteban Kolsky, founder of ThinkJar and former Gartner Analyst, supports this. He says more than 90 percent of unhappy customers leave without ever complaining.
We should all be grateful when we get any kind of feedback. At least, we know what to fix.
Not many people take the time to report problems to a company. Instead, they tell others.
Keller’s may be able to get away with having a single, hard-to-see menu. It’s a rare exception to the rule. Besides, customers can always get out of their vehicles to go look at the menu. Up close, it’s legible. What do you know? It has black letters on a white background.
Black is boring because it works. Don’t sacrifice legibility for trends and the cool factor.
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