Chapter 13: Color
The Hidden Meaning of ColorsOn the Web, particularly when dealing with international visitors, it's easy to get messed up by a potentially tricky issue: the meaning of color. Artists, philosophers, scientists, religious thinkers, and others from all walks of life have pondered this issue for centuries, but no consensus has been reached. The nineteenth century German writer and thinker Goethe spent a large portion of his life developing a theory of colorsmost of which has been consigned to the dustbin of philosophy by modern thinkers. Even setting aside highly codified color/concept schemassuch as those used in Tibetan religious art or the changing colors of the liturgical seasons in Western churchesit is difficult to apply specific meanings to specific colors. In the West, black is largely associated with death and somber thoughtswhile in Japan, the color associated with death is white, a complete reversal of the Western viewpoint. Considering that the Web is an international medium of communication, it may not be practical to take culturally accepted color meanings for granted. Bearing in mind the Western cultural background of this book's production, Table 13-6 lists some common meanings people may associate with certain colors.
Table 13-6. Common Concepts Associated with Colors (Subject to Cultural Bias)
Even without the complications of cultural associations, Web conventions also use color to convey meanings. The significance of hyperlink colors is brought up throughout this bookpeople are used to clicking on blue text to go somewhere else, and they know that purple text means they've already been there. Changing the color of hyperlinks is always a questionable proposition, especially if the audience for the site are not experienced usersthey may see light blue text and never think to click, because they know that regular links are blue. However the messages may be subtler and more difficult to pin down. Reflect on what you think when you see a Web page with red text on a black background. How often does this make you think "Amateur!" in terms of the site's designer? How do you respond to sites that do not have a white background on text-heavy pages? Every Web user brings a host of unacknowledged expectations about what colors, or combinations of colors, mean in the browser window.
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