If you’ve visited the blog before you may have noticed that I changed the theme yesterday. It’s a bit of a shame, but the scheme that I was using previously had a very thin middle column size. It was making even ordinary length paragraphs look like a wall of text and meant some images (for instance in the keyboard article yesterday) just couldn’t fit.
It’s a shame though because whilst I like the new layout I’m not generally a fan of the black text on white background colour scheme. At this point I can imagine most readers laughing! Black text on white background? You mean like every other website in the world? Yeah. I do.
Black text on white background is a stupid idea if you’re reading things on a computer. Repeat after me: “A screen is not paper.” With paper, both due to the method of manufacture and becuase of the natural lighting of the world, white background makes perfect sense. But the same doesn’t apply when you transfer the findings to a light emitting source like a screen. Would you stare at a 60 watt light bulb for long? Thought not. Have difficultly reading articles on screen for long compared to on paper? It’s not just the screen refresh rate at fault. You’re evolutionarily designed to be able to see light things easier than dark. It just makes sense. So why have the object you want to ignore, the background, in a colour that is easier to focus on?
With a computer screen we can display the information on the screen however we want. So lets go to first basics and just look at how eyes work. A study doing just that shows that light text on dark background results in less eye strain. This has implications for stress as well as health impacts in the long term if your job involves using screens daily. Of course you can’t just directly invert a colour scheme, font may need to be redesigned slightly and it’s also advisable to change line spacing. But the fundamental fact remains: light-on-dark is better.
How did we end up with a scheme applied virtually everywhere which can be scientifically demonstrated to be inferior? It’s that same old story again: the typewriter! Initial designers of operating systems for general users (Note: not programmers. Programming software generally understands this. See the default colour scheme of vim or command prompt for instance) wanted to make a computer completely comparable to a type writer. “Hey guys – it’s like real paper!” The colour scheme was never redesigned since then.
So, until I get around to editing my own css for this blog we’re stuck with black on white. I apologise for any permanent damage I cause my readers!
P.S. The new header is from a recent walking trip in September showing the Fairfield horseshoe in the Lake District. Beautiful!