Many of your readers don't see your wiki the same way you do. They may have contrast sensitivity -- trouble reading text that has low contrast with the background color underneath it. While they may be able to make out black letters on a white background, other color combinations are much harder to read — and can even induce headaches.

Luckily, you can help them out. Obey web contrast standards and more people will be able to stay on your wiki longer.

Though a perfect example of high contrast, you can achieve good contrast levels for your readers with tens of thousands of color combinations.

A problem for all your readers

There are many eye maladies that can keep people away from your wiki. Glaucoma, retinopathy[1] and astigmatism are just a few. These don't affect only people of older age, so keep in mind that readers of any wiki might have visual impairments and disabilities.

Yet it's not just the visually impaired who benefit from higher-contrast designs. Bad color combinations can, by themselves, induce eyestrain and discomfort, making even those with great eyesight turn away from your wiki.[2]

Contrast ratios

So how do you get higher contrast onto your wiki? Easy: contrast ratios (CR). There's some pretty fancy math behind these web-standard ratios, but you don't need to understand any of it to make your wiki better.

All you need is an easy-to-use tool called a contrast analyzer. There is a ton of them out there to help you. Colorable is demonstrated in the video to the left, but there are others. For example, the WCAG Contrast Checker.

You can also use Firefox's Accessibility Inspector or Chrome's Color Picker, as well as some browser extensions to check the CR.

There are two web standards: AA and AAA. All contrast analyzers will make it obvious when you hit these targets. Accept no less than the AA contrast ratio between your background and text colors[3]. But try for the higher AAA standard so that you can help a wider range of readers[4].

To pass the AA standard you should also pay attention to the contrast of graphic elements, such as icons, required to understand the wiki content[5]. They should be easy to see, like the text, or otherwise some readers may lose the context or other valuable information.

Size matters

Bigger letters don't need super-high contrast ratios to be easily readable. For that reason, you can usually express a little more creative freedom with section headers than you can with your normal article text.

This combo only barely passes AA, and then only for large text. You should not use combos like this for your normal article text.

Generally, contrast analysers will tell you whether your achieved CR only applies to large text. If it doesn't say large, then it typically means the CR applies to both large and regular text.

But your wordmark typically has no minimum CR, it's too big and too stylised. That doesn't mean you should forget contrast altogether. A logo that's white will get lost on a white background. But if you're really set on using white-on-white, just throw some darker borders or shadows around it.

White on black, or black on white

There's a lot of debate about how best to offer contrast to readers — particularly when it comes to whether dark text on a light background is better than the reverse[6] It seems to depend on the reader and the reader's type of visual impairment.

It is known that white text on a black background makes the text harder to read for people with astigmatism[7].

However, black text on a pure white background causes glare that's problematic to some. In general, the best solution is dark text on a light background or to use colours such as navy for a dark background and pastel colours for light text, while still adhering to the AA and AAA standards[8][9].

Best practices

Here are a few best practices that will help you achieve the goal of adhering to the W3C standards.

  • Please at least hit AA for your normal body copy — but try to get to AAA if you can.
  • Make sure you're reading your CR analyser correctly. Match the ratio with the text size in which you're interested. It does your readers no good to have a color combo that works at 18px when you're examining the situation at 11px.
  • Don't combine colors that are (even nearly) opposite from each other on the color wheel. Particularly bad combos? Red-on-green, cyan-on-red, green-on-magenta, red-on-blue, blue-on-yellow, and their reverses.[10]

Following these tips will help more people comfortably see your wiki — and therefore stay on it longer!

References

See also

Related topics here at Fandom

Around the web

Further help and feedback

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