Fighting the color wars

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A screenshot of two items in my grocery store’s online ordering system. One is red, the other green. Guess which one is on sale?

Colors carry the weight of a culture with them whether we like it or not. They also carry the weight of the user’s previous experience.

My grocery ordering system,, is doing a fantastic job of proving this true, to their detriment, right now. I’m in America, where red means “stop” or “don’t do it” or “negative consequences”. In the financial industry, for example, it’s generally used for a market loss (generally considered a bad thing). In traffic, it means stop. In the office, it means “power” or “aggression” – men wear their red power ties and a woman in a red dress is trying to stand out.

Only in our Chinese (or similar) neighborhoods is it considered lucky or good.

Green on the other hand, means many positive things – a gain in the financial markets, the ability to “go” in traffic, a soothing and natural and back-to-nature feel in most other things.  Green paint is calming, green foods are healthy, green means good.

And yet… maybe to give all prices a sense of good?… all of the prices of food at Peapod are in a green font. That’s an interesting design challenge right there. If someone insists all prices are good, and green indicates good, then it makes sense that all prices would be green. But then when something goes on sale, that’s better than good… but there is no greener green (or at least Peapod doesn’t use one)… so items on sale are… red?

The red certainly stands out against a sea of green prices, but rather than encouraging me to buy, it throws me off. I don’t want the red thing, red is bad, except here red is good, so I do want the red thing, but red is bad, and ow my head hurts.

If it were me, and it’s not, I’d fight hard for “normal price” being black and “sale” being green and maybe “super sale” being extra bright green or something. Because fighting an entire culture of learned experience in a design is a difficult position to win.

Now on The Interconnected: Baggage fees and gaming the system

Written before United tried to tear a guy off an airplane, my latest post on The Interconnected, Baggage fees and gaming the system covers some of the impacts of baggage fees on the behavior of United’s user base (aka the customers flying on the plane). I hope you enjoy it. Or are horrified by the airline industry. Either works.

An Event Apart Seattle 2017: Let’s Build a Website (and Talk About The Job of Front-End Design and Development) by Chris Coyier

The last session of the conference was what Chris referred to as an “all-day session”. Chris spoke extensively on multiple topics throughout the day, all of which centered around the idea that writing a website today has a lot of complexity.

Truth be told, most of us in the audience know perfectly well how to build a website, at least to the point that we can build something and get it into publication. Some days it seems like everyone and a whole bunch of things (looking at you, frameworks) believe they know how to build a website.

But best practices are harder to identify and codify, especially with the industry moving on so many topics in so many directions at once. The result: this session was a fantastic use of my time, even having been in the industry for over 20 years.

It’s worth nothing that the session was very geared toward front-end development and developers. This was not the session where you were going to learn how to design a website or how to brand or even at the other end how to test. In that sense, it was the most focused session of the conference.

Since it was an all-day session, and since Chris spent a significant amount of that time actively coding, I did my best to capture the highest concepts and did not get every detail. If you’d like ever detail, Chris is teaching another session in Chicago in August.
Continue reading

An Event Apart Seattle 2017: 10 Things You Can and Should Do with SVG by Chris Coyier

While Una’s presentation was on optimizing raster images, Chris’s presentation is on the things that can be accomplished when we use SVG files – a specific form of vector images. (Neither speaker did a significant amount to explain the difference, and it’s a core concept in design, so if you’re new to the field or you need a refresher read up on the difference.) Continue reading

An Event Apart Seattle 2017: The Joy of Optimizing by Una Kravets

Una’s presentation centered around raster graphics and how they can be better optimized. Though she doesn’t go into it in detail, the implications of poorly-optimized raster images are costly: they tend to be large files, costing our users money in data fees (if on a price-per-MB connection) and time (if on a slow connection) as well as storage and other less-concerning issues.

For the application-heavy work that I tend to do in my day job (my wheelhouse is enterprise web app information architecture) I’m better off with SVG vector images for most uses than raster — iconography is better suited to vector for a number of reasons.

But ooh boy do I have some work to do for my personal WordPress sites. Continue reading