Reverse colour text and attention blindness

16 Jan 2009 - 6:20am
5 years ago
4 replies
460 reads
John McCarthy
2009

I'm working on a design at the moment that has a "tab panel" in the page.

In the first iteration the visual designers used reverse colour on the main
type to distinguish between the selected tab and the unselected tab. This
type of colour reversal is a classic graphic design trick to decrease the
visual noise on a page.

My problem however is I think this kind of that it can introduce interaction
problems.
It is well known that we selectively attend on the basis of colour - in
other words if you are tuned into black text you will tend to not see any
white text. This is exactly the reason why the classic graphic design trick
works.

For the user this results in a kind of "tab blindness" - an effect I've seen
in a number of testing sessions.
Has anyone come across this observation or any design guidelines that advise
against colour reversals in navigation devices?

--
Dr. John McCarthy
Experience Architect

Comments

16 Jan 2009 - 11:38am
Den Serras
2009

Independent of any guidelines or other usage, isn't "tab blindness"
something you can take advantage of here? A user will probably already
know where they are by word or position, so wouldn't having the
current tab fade back help? You're still showing them that this tab
is different from the others as a reminder. I've found that nav
systems that yell at me "YOU ARE HERE" are more distracting than
helpful. That said, it would be a liability if you're using any of
these as SEM landing pages...

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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17 Jan 2009 - 3:19pm
John McCarthy
2009

The problem is that some users seem to completely ignore the other
tabs in an in-page tab panel - even when the tab headings are clearly
relevent to their task.

Obviously any tab panel should have some element of foreground and
background in the design but if the background is never even used
then it becomes a problem.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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17 Jan 2009 - 9:48pm
Den Serras
2009

Yeah, losing the entire tab navigation would defeat the purpose... Are
you finding this true in any particular design more than any other?

Where I see tabs get lost when they are underneath a row of primary
tabs/buttons and they aren't as prominent as the upper row - the
eye, after clicking the top tab, just jumps down to the content
looking for the new info. It's only after discovering the page
doesn't show what they want that I've seen users go back up to look
for another nav.

That always bugged me about Apple's last version of the site. I'm
glad they fixed it in the new one and made the second row now the
most important nav after leaving the home page. They still hide it on
product pages and the iphone page, but on the other secondary pages
they use large pics at the top which do a great job of catching
attention.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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19 Jan 2009 - 4:18am
John McCarthy
2009

Thanks for the Apple example Den. I hadn't seen this yet.
This type of slider mechanism could work well as an alternative
to tabs - especially if there tabs represent some sort of continuous
journey.
I'd probably keep it persistent though. It disappears once you click
through on the Apple site.

Thanks again for that

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37296

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