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Graphics Software

Destroying The Myth Of The Web-Safe Palette 270

curmudgeon42 writes: "The folks at Webmonkey have developed a new test of the Web-safe color pallette. The results of their experiment suggest that there are only 22 colors that work across all browsers, platforms, and color depths. The article also includes a good explanation of how the different color depths operate, and some interesting strategies for dealing with the greatly diminished amount of Web-safe colors." The authors are both senior designers at Razorfish. You might not guess it from visiting some of the worst sites on the Web, but some designers are both interested in making their pages look good to all (read "most") users, and in avoiding the problems of relying on proprietary plug-ins. If your words, artwork or photographs end up on the Web, you should read it.
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Destroying The Myth Of The Web-Safe Palette

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  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <> on Friday September 08, 2000 @07:47AM (#793981)
    This gets really frustrating. I used the GIMP to design an old home page of mine using "Web-safe" GIFs. Then I took a look at it on a really nice monitor, and the colors were just horrible.
  • Well, isn't that nice? We haven't advanced any further in display technology on the web than the primitive Amiga? 22 colors? Umm, hello? In this day of active matrix LCDs, 32 bit monitors and even color CCDs, we're limited to 22 colors?! Ngggghhh.

  • Web Monkey has been, and continues to be, an excellent resource not only on web development at the code/backend level, but also with aspects to good design practices. Unfortunately just because you can write some wicked perl scripts for a web site, does not mean you can design a pretty interface to them. It's much easier for a graphic designer to learn how to create a web page than it is for a coder to learn good design principles. Web Monkey has a nice blend to help both groups out.

    Plus, they also have a great name. =)

  • Prices...
    Die sizes on your CPUs...
    but the colors you can use?!??!?!

    and just when you thought it was safe to view the web in all 216-color glory, too ;)
  • by scotpurl ( 28825 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @07:54AM (#793985)
    The real problem here is the customers who insist upon complete control. They think "publishing," and somehow think that they have ultimate control over all things, and thus ultimate control over how it is presented to the viewer.

    The web is a different medium. You don't take radio rules and apply them to TV, and vice versa. What works well for glossy color magazines won't work well for an indie newspaper.

    I'm still fighting battles with folks. The latest here is the use of the corporate logo. The brand-identity weenies complain that there has to be one inch of whitespace around the logo, and the logo can not appear any smaller than certain dimensions, and it has to appear in the correct colors.

    One inch of white space? Sure, on what size monitor?
  • Surely most everyone using the internet with graphics enabled has realised that web sites WILL LOOK TERRIBLE if you use less than quite a lot of colors. If you wanna browse in four colors you can, but why should my experience be spoiled by whiny pathetic ten year old technology huggers? I like gradients and drop shadows and textures. A site doesn't need to be slow to be pretty, so why should it be ugly to everyone, rather than just people who are crippled by their browser/Accelerator/whatever. Inequality in Browsers doesn't mean i should have to suffer just 'cos you do.
  • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:02AM (#793988) Journal

    Unfortunately, with Netscape 4.61 on an HP-UX TrueColor display (visual), 7 of the 22 really safe colors [] display GIF-BGCOLOR mismatches. Of course, some of the supposedly non-safe colors may work OK on my display, but if you're trying to be truly cross-platform, the number is reduced to 15 safe colors.

    What really bugs me recently is not color mismatches, but sites which have some sort of horizontal bar with many repeating vertical color streaks. It looks really ugly and I've seen it on a number of sites, so it seems to be more of a browser problem. Perhaps it's CSS that Netscape 4.x doesn't understand correctly?

  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:03AM (#793989) Homepage
    David Lehn and Hadley Stern have on occasion been called obsessive. David is a senior information architect and interface developer in the Milan office of Razorfish. Hadley is a senior designer in Razorfish's Boston office.

    OK, this is somewhat off-topic, but it's a good story and it's sort of pertinent.

    I was on a Boston to New York shuttle flight that gets stuck on the runway for 3 hours with no explanation. Worse, I'm sitting in front of three idiot consultants from Razorfish who spend the whole time talking loudly and incessantly. Remarkably, not one word of it resembled any productive activity in the slightest. "So, I conducted a series of group discussion sessions to quantify how they establish their procedures." "But, Bianca, how did you formulate the framework for evaluating their paradigms?" I was thinking back to the Slashdot article [] where a client sued Razorfish for delivering a shoddy site and wondered whether these clowns had worked that project.

    My favorite line - Bianca is irate because a client asked her for some concrete bit of information: "Can you believe that? Hello? I'm an Information Architect, not a Knowledge Engineer!"


  • by Chalst ( 57653 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:07AM (#793990) Homepage Journal
    The point isn't about web designers not having exact control over the
    output, it is about colour rendering for web pages being done in an
    internally inconsistent manner by almost all browsers. That's pretty
  • These guys should watch what they say:
    As we said, computers like mathematical simplicity, so the palette has to have consistent spacing. We need to find the largest number that can be cubed (to accommodate the three root colors RGB) without its cubed value exceeding 256. That number is 6 (6 * 6 * 6 = 216).
    Bollocks. What about the 6-7-6 palette that was a common "standard" for GIFs back in the old days? IIRC, the palette choice for "undithered" colours was made fairly arbitrarily by Netscape, and was not based on what the application could allocate at run-time.
    If you need six points on a scale, you need five spaces. Since we started our scale on 0, not 1, we can divide 255 by 5 and get the result of 51. Therefore, our values are 0, 51, 102, 153, 204, and 255. Any combination of these in the R, G, or B positions results in a valid color for an 8-bit display.

    More pish. They already said that the palette for 256-colour displays was drawn from a pool of 16,776,216 colour.
    In theory, an operating system can display any 256 colors, but your machine would take a real performance hit if it had to redraw its palette every time you toggled between applications.In theory, an operating system can display any 256 colors, but your machine would take a real performance hit if it had to redraw its palette every time you toggled between applications.

    Well, I used to run "netscape -install" on my 8bit X server and that's exactly what it did.

    If the authors felt the need to dumb-down the technical side, they could at least get it right. The article is otherwise very intersting and informative.
  • by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:10AM (#793992) Homepage Journal
    My websafe palette:
    0 - black
    1 - white

    Reminds me of an old TV technician joke: What does NTSC stand for?
    Never Twice the Same Color (prob. referring to the inevitable drift of a analog tint control)

  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <> on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:11AM (#793993)
    Right. I was wondering about that, too. Here's what they really did: run the 216-color palette on several different machines, each of which behaved differently. Whether because of disparate video card selection, or monitor selection, or whatever. Then they picked the 22 colors which happened to render correctly on all of their test systems.

    But this doesn't mean they'll render correctly on your system! I'll bet if they'd picked a few more windows machines to test, they would've had even fewer "web safe" colors in the end. So what this article really does is destroy the concept of a web-safe palette altogether. The 22 colors are just arbitrary.

  • True. So I left out the part where they've got their Pantone color sample in hand, with The Official Corporate Logo Color on it, and they're hopping angry, wondering why it's not the same color on their monitor. Well, 'cause The Official Corporate Logo Color ain't one of the 212, and it ain't close to one of the default 256, and it's kinda close to one of the 65,000 colors, but it depends upon your monitor settings....
  • by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:20AM (#793997) Homepage Journal
    They already said that the palette for 256-colour displays was drawn from a pool of 16,776,216 colour.
    Actually the 'classic' VGA palette is 256 out of 262144 (6 bits per color).
    When True Color cards came out, ATI came up with CoDe (color depth Extension) which was truly 256/2^24. Others soon followed.
    So it's even worse: you got the 256 color drivers that support 8bpp palettes and the older ones that only go to 6bpp.
  • by Vassily Overveight ( 211619 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:20AM (#793998)
    Besides the web-safety limitations of color selections, web designers should also be cognizant of what visitors who are color-blind will see (a subject near and dear to my heart). Webtechniques [] has a great article [] on this subject. Particularly interesting is their description of how to simulate color-blindness in order to view your own design efforts.
  • by Phrogz ( 43803 ) <!> on Friday September 08, 2000 @08:29AM (#794000) Homepage

    The authors of this article don't seem to realize that 16-bit color is 15-bit color. As a brief primer:

    • 8-bit color is indexed color--256 indices into a palette of colors (defined by the system or elsewhere, like in a GIF).
    • 15/16-bit color and 24/32-bit color are direct mode colors. 24/32-bit color is 24 bits of information (8-bits each for red, green, and blue) plus 8-bits of padding (which can be used for an alpha channel). This is here because it's faster to move data in a single 32-bit chunk than it is to move three 8-bit chunks. If it were really 32-bit color, you'd have over 4-billion colors (2^32) instead of 16.7 million (2^24)

      Similarly, 15/16-bit color is three 5-bit channels and a 1-bit padding/alpha channel, yielding 32768 colors, not 65536.

    This (and some other inaccuracies in the article) cast some doubt as to how much the authors really understood what they were saying. For example, the web-safe palette still does protect you from dithering, and that's important.

  • I've had problems like this before, but usually the client understands when I explain the web isn't like a brochure, where you can mix the inks to get exactly the shade that you want, and have complete control over the layout. It seems to help if you use their own monitor and change the color and resolution settings to show them how there are many variables that the user can mess with, and over which you have no control.
  • by scotpurl ( 28825 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @09:05AM (#794002)
    did that. Now they want a $3k Sony monitor with hood, color calibrator, matching non-reflective black kimono (to wear over your light-colored clothes to eliminate glare) etc. etc.

  • Is it just my browser (IE 5.0 on MacOS) or are the rest of you also having trouble following the links to their sidebars? Whenever there's a link to an example or a result, I'm just reloading the original page.

    Between the authors and Webmonkey, you'd think someone involved would know how to format a link properly!


  • by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @09:53AM (#794004) Homepage Journal
    I hate whoever invented this stupid thing. Yes, it allows you to make sure some colors match up on low-end displays. It made sense when most of the world was browsing at 256 colors. But now, the COMMON CASE is a high-color display without color dithering! If you think minor color mis-matches look bad, take any photograph and dither it to the "web-safe" palette in photoshop or the gimp. Horror! I've seen far too many web sites which dither everything to the web-safe palette, the designer thinking that it will make everything look "right" on all displays. This article shows that it (except a very small subset) doesn't even make everything look the SAME on all displays.

    Designers have a hard time learning new tools and techniques (ever seen a web site designed by a designer who does classic media?)... this habit is one of the worst.
  • I've had (and will doubtless continue to have) the same problems.

    The part that bugs me the most is the HUGE amount of time wasted on these battles. Just when I finally win an argument (and get to ignore the Brand Identity guidelines), I get socked with another weenie insisting that all text absolutely must be half-inch Garamond.

    It's not that I hate fighting these battles per se, it's that I keep having to fight them, over and over and over again, regardless of how many times I try to put my foot down.

  • I tried for quite some time to have my little homepage to look nice. It was a pain - decent graphics took too long, then you had to mess around with different colors on the background. Then you had to go to a different machine to look at it, to make sure that it look the same on a Win9x machine w/ IE as on my Linux machine running Netscape 4.x. And, of course, it never did.

    So I stopped - I think I now have three graphics on my whole "home site". I made all the colors the default (usually black on white, but on my Linux machine it's black on light gray, thanks to Netscape). So, since I made that decision, I decided to do something else on my site, to make sure that people would come back. Something rarely seen on the Web today (though that hasn't always been the case). I put in actual content. Naturally, it's my website, so it's all about me and my not-so-exciting life, but still - there is actual content on my web site.

    - mikeh
  • by Fleet Admiral Ackbar ( 57723 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:01AM (#794010) Homepage
    Most of the time, when I browse, I can only see a few colors - blue for links, red for visited links, purple for emphasis, and white for everything else.

    Is there something wrong with my Web Safety? Should I upgrade my version of Lynx to get all 22 colors?

  • > What really bugs me recently is not color mismatches, but sites which
    > have some sort of horizontal bar with many repeating vertical color
    > streaks.

    Say, I don't suppose tha you could explain to our human resources department that blue and grey horizontal stripes (every 3 or 4 pts) aren't a good background for black text . . .
  • Yes, there *are* some machines with only 16 colours (4 bit colour). And heck, even monochrome (1 bit) 'colour'. Many web sites worked fine on this computer with only black and white, but a large number did not.

    If you want to be truly safe, you need enough contrast between your background and your foreground so that it works on machines with 1-bit colour.

    But why bother? Nobody would seriously use such a machine to browse the web, as useful as it could be for other things. Similarly, do you really need to appeal to users with only 8-bit colour? I mean, so long as they can see something, is it really worth making it look perfect?

  • Is it just me (and I don't know that much about color theory, just some perception) but an equal distribution of numbers in a color palette is horrible.

    Gamma kinda goes like this, perception of differences isn't based on an absolute difference, but a percentage different. I can feel the difference between one ounce and two ounces much better than I can feel it between 30 punds and 30 pounds 1 ounce. The absolute difference is still 1 ounce, but the percentage is radically different. The perception curve is based on an exponential, and that exponent is named gamma.

    The percieved color difference between 0x00 and 0x33 is radically different between 0xCC and 0xFF. You actually want a perceptually equidistant color space, not mathematically. Ever wonder why dark gifs look so bad? because there is too much spacing (perceptually) between colors at the bottom end.

    As we said, computers like mathematical simplicity,

    BS, programmers who don't understand color theory or are too lazy to program it right liked the mathematical simplicity.

  • by Ian Schmidt ( 6899 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:07AM (#794015)
    I've written low-level drawing code that had to work on 3 dozen video cards, so I know entirely too much about this. There are actually 3 flavors of "high color":

    * 15 bit, no alpha channel, aka "555" color with 5 bits each of R, G, and B.
    * 15 bit with alpha, aka "1555" with 1 alpha bit and 5 bits each of R, G, and B.
    * 16 bit which (on PC hardware at least) is always "565" color, with 5 bits each for red and blue and 6 for green (because the human eye is more sensitive to variations in green).

    You can of course treat 555 and 1555 the same in most cases. Older boards tended to be 555 format, while most newer designs are 565.
  • Actually, there is a such thing as a 16-bit color mode that uses 5 bits for red, 6 for green, and 5 for blue (presumably because our eyes are slightly more sensitive to different shades of green), which does lead to 65,536 colors. As far as I know, some video cards use 15-bit mode for high colors, and others use 16-bit mode. I don't know of any that use both. Not to say there weren't inaccuracies in the article - see my comment below.
  • Don't forget transparent, that makes three colors.

    By the way, viewing at 256 colors, the 22 color pallette [] looks more like 11 different colors with a bunch of duplicates.

  • I recently found time to begin learning photoshop for the first time at work. I thought I'd redesign my web page with my newfound skills.

    What I found quickly was that even using a web safe palette in photoshop, and then viewing my page in netscape on the SAME MACHINE, the color was skewed. (Curiously enough, the color in question was actually closer to what I'd intended in netscape on a different (Mac) OS).

    It didn't take me long to decide that there was pretty much no hope of complete color concordance, and I gave up, and just tried to make something that would look decent even if the colors drifted. That's pretty much what you have to do. Sort of like computer security?....
  • In the article, the authors claim that when your monitor is in 15-bit mode, there are 32,768 colors it can display, and that these are chosen uniformly in a 32x32x32 quantization of RGB-space. This is correct. However, they also claim that none of these colors exist in true-color mode (except black and white and other pure colors) because, for example:

    In 15-bit mode, the color (1,1,1) where each number is in the range 0-31 gives us about 3.23% gray.

    In 24-bit mode, the closest colors you seem to have are (8,8,8) and (9,9,9) in the range 0-255 which correspond to 3.13% gray and 3.53% gray.

    However, this assumes that at a hardware level, there is a difference in the signal being sent to the monitor between 3.23% and 3.13% for each color channel. Is that really the case? My guess would be that when you're in high color (15-bit) mode, each pixel gets translated to its nearest 24-bit equivalent inside of the video card before the signal sent to the monitor. This is almost certainly the case when the connection to the monitor is digital, like in some new flat-panel displays. Anybody know about this for sure?
  • This reminds me when I was visiting a friends company and was playing on their website. I forced the browser to use my choice of link color and background color. It caused a few minutes of hubbub when his boss realized that their clients might be able to do this and make the website look really bad.

    In the end, the best thing a designer can do is to Keep It Simple, Stupid. Too many colors too much going on will cause it to look bad on someone's machine.

  • I'm glad to see that they addressed the concept that different rules apply to different media.

    My favorite is:
    STRATEGY 9 -- Go back to print design.

    Anyway, I ran into this trouble a couple weeks ago. What I _REALLY_ hate is if you have a GIF that's a solid color (say #006000) and you set the BGCOLOR of a table or body to the EXACT SAME COLOR, the browser displays the GIF and the BG differently. Drives me nuts.

    Some day there will be a browser that actually works. Some day a long time after that, most people will be using a browser that actually works.

    Until then, I'm forced to send design back to the design team over and over until they get a clue.

    Someone else hire me. []
  • by whatnotever ( 116284 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:20AM (#794027)
    Yet another inaccuracy in the article:

    These "senior" whatever-they-are's didn't bother to look closely at their tests. They say that the color mismatches occur in high-color modes because the browser has to pick between (as an example) 1.9 and 2.1, from an original 2.0, and it doesn't always pick the same thing...

    If they would look at their example images (ghost.gif and obvious.gif, linked from within the article), they would see that the BGCOLOR for the table cell was solid, but the GIF was *dithered*. They claim that it is a bug in the browser. You could consider it a bug, I suppose, but it's really just the fact that the browser assumes that BGCOLORS should be solid, and thus picks the nearest color, whereas images are quite often *not* solid shades of color, and they usually benefit from dithering.

    Another nitpick: The fact that they claim these colors that don't pass their test in high color aren't "web safe" is inane, at best. They consider these colors "unsafe" because they are shifted slightly in high-color? Um, how often can you get colors to display consistently across all sets of hardware/software? Never. A little color shifting is irrelevant. *Maybe* you can have an issue with high-color dithering (which they didn't seem to notice), but that's pushing it...

    Duhhh, I feel special because I picked apart an article written by guys making lots of money... :-P
  • Actually, that is incorrect. '15-bit' color data is indeed stored in 16-bit chunks, however when the distinction between 15-bit and 16-bit color data is being discussed, 15-bit usually refers to pixel data in the 5-5-5 (5 bits for each color component), where as 16-bit refers to it in the 5-6-5 format (5 bits for blue and red, 6 bits for green). The 5-6-5 format has 65536 unique colors, and the 5-5-5 format has 32768 unique colors. The pixel format of your high-color modes depends on your video card. Most video cards these days use 5-6-5 as their high-color pixel format, which does indeed give you a full 65536 colors.

    The extra bit in 5-5-5 could theoretically be used for an alpha channel, however in reality it is almost always ignored.

    The advantages of the 5-5-5 format is that the color components are more equal, so you get a full 32 shades of true grey rather than the pseudo almost-greys of the 5-6-5 format. Of course, for most photographic data you want as much color depth as possible, so the 5-6-5 format is preferred.

  • The concept of a web-space palette has nothing to do with consistency between hardware setups.

    The concept of a web-space palette has everything to do with using one general but limited set of colors for all images, when the hardware has only 8bpp in which to render.

    If you're using a video card in a 8bpp hardware mode (common in 1994), the hardware must use a palette: a lookup from 8bpp indices to the analog RGB triple. There is only ONE hardware lookup table for all applications that have access to the screen.

    In such a scenario, the graphics manager (Windows GDI, the MacOS equivalent, or whatever other system) generally gave the foreground app priority. It could load as many colors into the hardware lookup as it wanted (up to the obvious 256). All other apps had to use a "logical palette", which was a wishlist. The manager would map any spares to the best colors from all background apps' wishlists, and map any other graphics to the nearest equivalent in the definitive lookup.

    Changing the hardware lookup meant "palette flashes", most commonly seen when switching between two graphics applications, each of which trying to optimally select colors for its graphics documents. The flash was because the hardware lookup changes took place instantaneously, while the software had to refresh their images at whatever speed the CPU and video memory accesses allowed for.

    A web browser, unlike a graphics app, is used to render many images at once. Thus, it must in turn emulate the SAME sort of wishlist strategy for each image, not just each application.

    The 216 color "safe" palette was proposed, because this was the most theoretically evenly spaced set of RGB values that filled the whole RGB gamut (6 levels R, 6 levels G, 6 levels B, 6*6*6=216, 216<256).

    If the web browser app registered the 216 colors (plus any common shades of gray used by the default OS GUI), then it always had *some* chance of making a reasonable nearest-color compromise in every image it was asked to draw.

    There is NO way to make 100% match between different mediums. Two different digital-to-analog chips (DACs) made from the same wafer of silicon will still have different thermal and amp response curves. The best you can do is approximate.

    Macs and SGIs have inherently focused more on color reproduction quality, but they still vary a lot. PC cards are more interested in pixel pushing than in DAC quality, but they're better than ever at making good color. The reputations stick: Mac goes for high-saturation color, while PC goes for a flatter gamma.

    That's not even getting into RGB vs CMYK color spaces... the monitor, even in "true color" 24bpp modes, can only approximate about half of the actual color space available to the human eye. Print media can also get only about two thirds.

    Good logo designers have to consider embroidery, silkscreening on fabric, silkscreening on plastics, diecut metals, print and onscreen uses for that logo. You think the web was a limited environment for color choices!

    In short: "Safe palettes" are good for reducing compromised color selections, and a common palette from app to app helps in reducing that hardware palette lookup flashing. If you're in a higher color mode, you don't get any of the latter case, and the 216 colors are irrelevant to the compromises made in the former case.

    But you STILL won't look like your neighbor.

  • Well, why don't you just suggest that they demand that site visitors must have a particular brand of monitor and video card before being allowed to enter? They can even require that potential visitors mail them receipts showing that they own the necessay items before receiving a password. That way they can pre-qualify the entire user base. Problem solved :-).

    Oooh! I just had another thought. They can furnish each potential visitor with a pantone card set and gamma correction software, and insist that they adjust their monitors until they get just the right shading. Yeah, that'll work.
  • OK, so when doing web graphics, I've got two choices...

    1) Use a low-color palette and have graphics and pages that look generally crappy to everyone, or

    2) Stick with the "don't worry about it" method and have graphics and pages that only look crappy to those with amazingly low color palettes.


  • Am I the only one who thinks this is a non-issue created by people obsessed over aesthetics and graphic design? I have never once come accross a site whose color combination has limited the functionality of the site. Sure, if you have photorealistic images or something, they might look slightly different, but really, for most cases, does precise matching of color matter *that* much (not to slight the color blind). I mean, the BSD and YRO sections of Slashdot are pretty damn ugly, but somehow I still manager to cope. Are there really people out there who are going "Hey, this site looks subtly different on my Mac! Damn you! Burn in hell! I will never buy your products!".

    Who really cares if the colors are a bit off? (and I understand if it's a matter of principle - you don't design poorly if you know there is a right way to do something, but still...this seems like splitting hairs)
  • by skoda ( 211470 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:22AM (#794034) Homepage
    As a scientist, I give presentations occaisionally, and a (male) audience member later told me he was red-green color-blind, as was ~10% of the male population.

    Since then, I've tried to never use both red & green as the only distinguising characteristic on a chart, etc.

    While I'm at it - blue & red should not be placed next to each other, generally. Since they fall roughly at opposite ends of the visible spectrum, the eye's focal power differs the most between those colors. As your eye/brain tries to focus properly on two colors that require slightly different adaptations, you can perceive a "vibration" -- the boundary between the red & blue will have a high-frequency shimmering or vibrating appearance.

    This is not universal, and is most noticeable between bright solids with adjacent, straight edges.

    Further OT - it can also be used to interesting effect. There's a laser-tag place nearby, and the carpet has a blue-grid pattern offset on a red-grid pattern, illuminated partly by blacklights. From the observation gallery it has a 3D effect, with the carpet looking as if it has 12" deep holes in it. I believe it's due to the red-blue focusing issue.
    D. Fischer
  • There's evidence to back up your statement: [], a subscription service that provides browser stats based on samples culled from sites that user their server stats technology, used to be free about a year ago. Even back then, their stats seemed to indicate that the prevalent setup for machines was 800*600 and 16-bit colour.
  • They say, "Unless you work entirely in black and white, approximately half your general audience won't properly see the colors you select for your site."

    Ahem. Let's rephrase that: "No one but you will properly see the colors you select for your site." If they think that slight color shifts are a problem, they need to standardize everyone else's: browsers, OSs, graphics cards, monitors, viewing conditions, and eyes. Enjoy.
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:28AM (#794039)
    Forget True vs High color. There are more basic issues at work:

    1) Non-color devices: Palms, cell-phones, terminals, lynx, etc.

    2) The reason people care about "websafe" colors is that they want the client to see what the designer designed. But if I adjust the settings on my end, I don't see it anyway. "The settings on my end" include everything from constrast/brightness/etc on my monitor to the individual color tweaks available on some TVs (as in "WebTV").

    It is literally impossible (not just difficult) to make this work, so why not design around it? Stop making pretty colors cover the fact that you have no content and actually give me some meaningful information.
    Linux MAPI Server!
  • And those people who have low color pallettes have gotten use to dithered colors. In their mind, that is what the web looks like. They have their resolution set at 640x480 and damn if they are going to change it. They like just five colors (red, green, blue, black, and white) and if they can see a purple a yellow and by golly an orange that doesn't dither, they are tickled pink.

    I don't mean to be cruel to these users, but at some point in time designers have to stop designing for the lowest common denominator and move up to the second lowest common denominator.

  • I have to agree with the sentiment of 'tough luck, 8-bit users'. I'll use web-safe colors if it doesn't cost me anything (like on a page background color or simple drawing, for example), but most of the time I assume my visitors will have at least 16-bit color. I've had people who had 8-bit color look at these pages and they don't seem to mind; they're so accustomed to everything looking bad that my pages don't stand out any more than the others in that regard.
  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:32AM (#794045) Homepage Journal

    Old-timey graphic designer motto (which isn't taught in schools anymore, to judge by Wired and it's ilk):

    No graphic design is better than bad graphic design

    I'm kinda old-fogey about this. If it's black, you read it. If it's blue, you click on it. If it's grey, it's the background.

    Jeez... If you're site is all about matching colors and transparent GIFs, you've got a brochureware site. Don't sweat it -- people will look at it once and never come back.

    (Browsing Slashdot in "simple HTML mode"...)

  • Inequality in Browsers doesn't mean i should have to suffer just 'cos you do.

    You've missed the point completely. It's not that "whiny ten year old technology huggers" don't want you to see more than 22 colors, it's that because there are so many different browsers out there, and if a Web designer uses colors other than those specific ones, the colors will be displayed incorrectly by some browsers - possibly by yours. The graphics will still display, of course, but they won't be as the designer intended.

    This, of course, is on top of all the quirks of layout rendering that make it impossible to design a decent-looking page that validates [] as clean HTML, and even still appear very different on some browsers.


  • On my personal site, I made graphics that looked good on my computer and stopped there. :) Well, I did some basic testing by viewing them at 4 different screen resolutions, and looked at a few things at different color depths. That helped with gross errors. But I didn't bother with I just didn't bother with subtle color-web-safeifying. Of course, having a five color paletee probably helped too.

    Recently, looked at it on my dad's laptop through his AOL account, and it looked almost exactly as it is supposed to, javascript and all.

    Oh yes, I have content too :)
    D. Fischer
  • One of the most interesting things I learned in this article is how inconsistent web browsers are when attempting to render colors in 15 or 16-bit modes. I can imagine this happens because sloppy programmers might convert from an 8-bit number to a 5-bit number by doing a bit-shift, incorrectly ignoring the less significant bits.

    This is a big deal, for example, if you need solid colors (like table BGCOLORS) seamlessly blending with GIF images. I can imagine this coming up sometimes, but not THAT often. Luckily they offered some suggestions to remedy this problem (like using a transparent color in your GIF where it blends with the background).

    The authors of the article, however, seem to imply that one concern is that the colors people see are not the colors you intended for them to see. This is a different issue entirely! Just the fact that most monitors have brightness/contrast controls, plus the differences in gamma used by Macs and PCs, and other factors like this virtually guarantee that most users will not see exactly the color you intended.
  • by jabber01 ( 225154 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:38AM (#794050)
    Especially for international business, web designers ought to be aware of the psychological payload of color schemes.

    You would NEVER, for example, expect to do business with someone whom you pick up in a white limo in China - White is a color reserved for funerals, and typically associated with death.

    Also, keep in mind the industry you are dealing with. For example, in Nuclear circles, where many people started out in the Navy, red means ON(hot) and green means OFF(cold)... So a flashing red marker might get misinterpreted.

    But then again, developing a web site with your audience in mind is common sense, isn't it? Well, isn't it?

    The REAL jabber has the /. user id: 13196

  • A secretary in my office has a windows95 machine that the sysadmin never installed the correct video driver on. Her machine is set on "default display" which only displays 256 colors.

    It never bothered her that everything looked really weird.

    Consider your audience.
    Design accordingly.

    Roughly 99.9% of the general population are not anal retentive web developers.

  • by PurpleBob ( 63566 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:39AM (#794052)
    Okay. There's a really cool thing you can do to help clear up this "vague assertion". It's called... RTFA [].

    People shouldn't have to repeat information from the article for your convenience.
    No more e-mail address game - see my user info. Time for revenge.

  • I know your exact problem. Photoshop 5.5, right? Go to the RGB settings under Color Settings under the File menu. Change it to Monitor RGB or Adobe RGB 1998. Also turn off the embedding of a profile for RGB images.

    Photoshop 5.5 has a lot of nice stuff, but fungling with my colors is a big bugaboo.

  • In theory, an operating system can display any 256 colors, but your machine would take a real performance hit if it had to redraw its palette every time you toggled between applications. In theory, an operating system can display any 256 colors, but your machine would take a real performance hit if it had to redraw its palette every time you toggled between applications.

    Well, I used to run "netscape -install" on my 8bit X server and that's exactly what it did.

    Sure, on many operating systems, different programs swap in different palettes when different programs are in the foreground. On your 8-bit Xserver, netscape was swapping in its 216 favorite colors. The Mac's done this since 1987 and it still works great. But it wouldn't make sense for a web browser to swap in a new color palette for each new web page. Especially because then it would be impossible for two different sites to be displayed in different frames.

  • by Luminous ( 192747 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:42AM (#794057) Journal
    Another nitpick: The fact that they claim these colors that don't pass their test in high color aren't "web safe" is inane, at best. They consider these colors "unsafe" because they are shifted slightly in high-color?

    I'd like to see these tests run again (or just looked at again) and count the number of colors that the color shifted but was only a slight degree. I understand why the colorshift is a factor as I had to design a website using frames that a .gif of a solid color had to match the BGROUND color of an adjacent frame in order to look correct. I suffered the subtle shifting problem and had to keep switching colors to get it right. What was worse was I only had the choice of dark blues and light grays.

    But I think that is a rare problem as most of the time, as they mentioned in their article, transparency can be used to allow the BGROUND color come through and you will have a direct match.

  • by TheTomcat ( 53158 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:42AM (#794058) Homepage
    We had a client who was checking out their website on two different (same brand, model etc) laptops, same OS, same browser. Same color depth.

    They couldn't figure out why the colors weren't exactly the same, and over the phone, we didn't catch the problem either. Naturally, they thought it was a problem with our design or programming.

    So, when they were here for a meeting, they brought the laptops along, connected to the site, and said "There, see? The colors aren't the same."

    They were right. The colors weren't the same despite exact same configurations on the two machines.

    I _REALLY_ impressed them when I reached up and adjusted the brightness and contrast of the darker laptop.

  • I read just enough color theory to survive my Ph.D. prelim several years ago, and promptly purged it from memory, so take this for what it's worth...

    You're right, human perception is not a linear function. We perceive green most strongly, over red and blue (in terms of a fundamental RGB colorspace). Also, our perception efficiency is roughly a bell-curve for each spectrum (R, G, B) with the max at some particular hue of each one.

    Our perception is also significantly affected by external conditions: adjacent colors, lighting.

    Two adjacent (non-white) colors will be perceived differently than if isolated on a white background.

    All lights have a spectrum; put another way, few (none?) consumer & commerical lights produce "white" light. Mercury-vapor lamps (i.e. street lights) are distinctly yellow. Neon lights, I think, have more blue than sunlight. So on. This leads to the common experience of buying a purple shirt in a neon-lit store and finding out it's blue in the sunlight (or whatever; I don't recall the particular color shifts). Likewise, a certain blue, say, may be very appealing, but when surrounded by a certain green, say, it no longer appears as expected. Combine that with the lighting issues, and you've got a mess.

    Related to lighting is the eye's light-adaptation level. When dark-adapted, nearly all color vision is lost, with the eye being most sensitive to red. So, a someone reading a magazine (or computer monitor) at night with dim lighting will see the colors differently than outside on a sunny day. (aside: I usually sleep on my side, so one eye is covered by the pillow and the other isn't. On a sunny morning, the non-covered eye is somewhat light-adapted whereas the other is more dark-adapted when I wake up. My green-lettered alarm clock then appears dual-colored. One eye sees the green but the other sees more yellow. Try it sometime: keep one eye covered for about 10 minutes and then look at strongly colored objects :)

    Back to the original poster...uniformly spaced color doesn't seem like the best choice for human interface issues. But since when have computer programmers concerned themselves with human interface issues? :)
    D. Fischer
  • I guess it's because it's an issue that's near and dear to their hearts. They are artists, after all. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that they thought various technical debates -- say, KDE vs. Gnome or Linux vs. Windows vs. MacOS vs. BeOs -- were non-issues created by people obsessed over licensing issues and software design.

    There's a time and place for getting colour matches as close as possible. When you're trying to choose something based on colour, you'll probably want as close a match as possible (that's why they print J. Crew catalogs on good paper). If I were reading a news story with photos, colour matching would be less crucial, but it would be bad if the colours were completely off. In the case of the colours being way off on some Slashdot discussions, it's annoying but not so bad unless the colour combo rendered the aricles unreadable. The necessity of sweating over the details depends on the application and judicious use of the mantra, "the best is the enemy of the good." If I had a deadline, I wouldn't sweat over the fact that the about box's graphics weren't the exactly correct shade.

    I do like it that some people concentrate on getting detail right. Take various GUIs. The icon redraw when opening a folder with a large number of files in the MacOS and in KDE and Gnome is much faster than in Windows 98. I won't even get into the garishly unsubtle choices in the Windows palette (even in 32-bit colour, you're stuck with the Win palette for colouring icons). Nothing major, but enough to give the feel that there's some shoddy construction under Windows' hood. Sometimes the little things do count.

    I'm glad we have people who care about good design and aesthetics -- I'm all for beauty as long as functionality is not sacrificed, and I think it may be harmful in the long run if beauty is sacrificed on the altar of functionality. Bring on the iMac, the Terayon cable modem, the Vaio, Korg synths and Nokia phones. They work well, and they look good too.

  • I think the above is the whole reason why CSS was implemented; as a means to allowing a designer to keep a client's client from changing their precious design into something really heinous that could potentially screw up the aesthetics of the site they labored (yea, right) and spent $500,000 to create.
  • Good graphic design is better than no graphic design.
    Useful != plain.
    Useful != ugly.
    Well designed sites include, but are not limited to, brochure sites.
    Default background with text at the full width IS a design choice, and usually a bad one.

    You can have a useful, well-organized site that people return to, AND doesn't look like it was designed by programmers who spend 14 hour days in their caves reading nothing but man pages.
  • by bug-eyed monster ( 89534 ) <bem03&canada,com> on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:52AM (#794068)
    The point is that the browser regards all presentational information provided in your web page as hints only. You may ask the browser to display something in Italic Arial, but you should not count on it, you may ask the browser to display something in the color #fceb20 but you should not count on that either.

    Also, browser are free to apply different rules to presentational hints in the HTML content versus color information provided in graphical files. The main beef of the article in question is that browsers treat BGCOLOR directives, an HTML presentational hint, differently from color info in GIFs, which is not surprising at all because the two are totally unrelated items. It is quite possible to view a well-made HTML page without rendering the images, while it is also easy to view a GIF without a web browser.

    The "web-safety" of the colors as defined by the article is only an issue when an author is trying to match the colors inside a GIF with those inside the remainder of a page. A more intelligent author would assume that GIFs and HTML may be rendered by two totally separate engines (perhaps even plugins) within the same browser, and therefore not expect anything other than the minimal spatial relationships between the two.

  • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @10:53AM (#794069) Homepage Journal
    take web color choice advice from the people who built this. [] Right...
  • Amen to that! Anyone still using an 8-bit display needs to upgrade. Period. If you use 8-bit Indexed displays you are probably used to looking at everything dithered anyway, so what's the real difference if a web page doesn't look as good? I'd be much happier if designers would assume that either a) I have a 24/32 bit direct color display on a 1280x1024 screen or better, or b) I'm blind and/or using a text-only browser and want the ALT tags and such instead. Designing for an 8-bit indexed display is just foolish and subjects the rest of us to ugliness. Much like the "designed for 800x600" anachronisms that give us tiny text on the left side and a thrice-repeated sidebar background. The era of the 14-inch monitor running 640x480x8 is long gone; let's make the most of the improved technology!

    That said, I don't believe most good web pages will use more than 3 or 4 colors anyway. The only situation I can really see this mattering for is things like photographs and artwork. Pages that are too complicated are ugly anyway.

  • What's more, so many sites are ignoring 8-bit color at this point that users of the older technologies are used to seeing everything dithered and cruddy. This doesn't mean it's not a consideration, but...

    Audio engineers, for example, should generally base their production work on studio "reference" monitors even though a lot of people are going to listen to their work through old 3" car speakers. It won't sound bad to those listeners, because to those listeners everything sounds equally bad.

  • Particularly interesting is their description of how to simulate color-blindness in order to view your own design efforts.

    Okay, hands up everybody who immediately tried the web-based tools to check /. Okay, now everybody who's decided to attach deeper meaning to the fact that Tux is the only thing that still looks ``okay''.

    I thought so.

  • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • Actually, shifting a color value by some bits to the right _is_ the correct way to convert to lower bit resolution (each color component independently, of course). If you were to take the remaining bits into account (maybe rounding up by 1 if the next bit is 1), you'd get a problem. what would you round 0xffffff to? The only problem is that there are different mappings for pictures and bgcolor (probably one of them gets it right, one wrong). That's a plain old bug that needs to be fixed, nothing to be worked around. You can use the lower bits only when dithering, not when choosing the best approximation for a single color.
  • And that's why on *expensive* graphics cards, there used to be a pantone-colour-matching hardware/software combination.

    IIRC, on the high-end #9GXE cards (around 1993) you can get this thing that will measure the colour saturation and whatnot, and will send adjustment values, until it gets it right. So, Green xxxx.x will be Green xxxx.x on screen too.

  • by webword ( 82711 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @11:24AM (#794098) Homepage
    Using some simple JavaScript, [] has put together a great tool for generating e-bullshit []. The tool combines a verb, adjective and noun, offering up wonderful non-sense. So go ahead, monetize value-added synergies, aggregate wireless initiatives, and synergize world-class channels.

    John S. Rhodes []
  • by PurpleBob ( 63566 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @11:29AM (#794103)
    The headline is too sensational. The Web-safe palette isn't a "myth" - it still works perfectly well for what it's supposed to do in the first place: contain colors that can be displayed without dithering.

    The 22 colors they've found are ones that not only can be displayed without dithering, but look exactly the same whether in an image or as an HTML background. The times you'll run into problems using colors that aren't in these 22 are when you're trying to put images on that background.

    For one thing, you can still use transparency safely on top of any of the 216 colors. Otherwise, you can still use all 216 colors in the foreground of the image - only the background has to be one of the 22 colors if you want it to look right.

    These 22 colors include, of course, black and white, which I'm guessing account for at least 90% of the page backgrounds on the Web.
    No more e-mail address game - see my user info. Time for revenge.

  • I'm not trying to pass the buck, but it is in fact not completely my fault.

    The site went WAY over budget as it was (our sales team needs a clue). My employer, nor the client will have little things like that fixed -- note the lack of ALT tags, etc.

    I'm assuming you mean the paragraph on the splash page? Is it happening somewhere else, too?
  • Even 24-bit color is kind of lame. You can see the boundaries between adjacent 24-bit colors; there's still some banding. 10 or 12 bits per pixel are needed to make that effect disappear completely.

    The latest generation of Softimage renderers use a format which has a 32-bit floating point number for each color value of each pixel. Why? So realistic lighting models in radiosity renderers will work. The real world has many orders of magnitude in intensity variation. High-end animation sometimes needs to work in a true intensity space, so that sunlight and shadows are properly represented. This is necessary to make compositing work right. At the very end, there's flattening as the images are rendered for display, but in the middle of the process, you need that kind of dynamic range.

  • If you are doing design in-house, that may be alright. But if you have been hired to design for someone else, your real audience is that person that hired you. If she thinks it looks like crap, then it does, regardless of what the world will think.

    If you make your living off contract design, your audience is completely different.


    Vote for freedom! []
  • I can agree with you, up to a point. Hey, I've pushed out my fair share of Shockwave/Javascript/1x1 pixel GIF sites myself. If the client wants it, I'll do it. I readily admit to being a whore.

    (Tho I find your comment funny since I visited your home page []. It looks pretty good to me.)

    Which is better?

    A site devoted to people suffering from AIDS that is tarted up with javascript, frames, and Flash that looks nice to some people, but atrocious to others, that takes 45 secs to load every page because everything is contained in one big TABLE?

    A site devoted to people suffering from AIDS that is rat-simple HTML, where the most complicated tag is the unordered list, but allows people who are blind, almost blind, have physical dexterity problems, and everybody can see everything? And, because it's rat-simple, each page loads in a couple of secs (or streams out as received, cause it doesn't need to render the TABLE).

    I maintain that it's better to aspire to B than to A. If you can add elements to B that brings it closer to A, but not leave a good portion of your audience in the cold, that's not a bad thing.

    If you're Wired, you pump out the most eye-catching, fluff filled stuff you can. Your audience expects it. That's fine as well. You just have to accept the fact that I (and a few other people) will never visit your site because of the rotating buttons. I'll only visit because there's a good article.

    Keeping content-as-King as a guiding principle means you can move faster, put more content up, and have a better, more popular site easier and cheaper.

    That's just my opinion.

  • What if I want to set my web site up with a perfect combination of (flashing) colors to induce an epilectic siezure in viewers? Where's the research for that?

    And I wonder why I haven't got any hits in the past six months... (Yes, I use frames, but it is lynx friendly.)

  • Actually - there are gamma conversions somewhere between the equally spaced hex numbers (which have to be equally spaced, obviously, they're integer values) and the intensity displayed on your screen.

    Unfortunately, this is not the same Gamma between platforms...

    I believe there's actually a gamma conversion in your video card and then another gamma conversion in your monitor, and then on some monitors the 'contrast' knob actually adjusts the gamma, but on others it's really contrast... I'm kinda surprised, actually, that they managed to find -any- websafe colors -at all- given all the variables.

    Anyway, in theory, PNG is supposed to solve all these problems (at least for images), by allowing a gamma value to be attached to the image so the appropriate adjustment can be made, but no web browsers are supporting the gamma-functions of PNG, or they weren't when O'Reilly's PNG book was written.

  • The issues with 16 bit color have long been known, I've seen it discussed on and personally experimented a little bit at least a year ago and maybe two. It boils down to what is supposed to be the same color for different components of a page isn't always the same color. Techniques for dealing with it for the 'pixel perfect' crowd have already been discussed.

    Something they didn't really touch on is the fact that different OS, Browsers, Video Card Drivers and hardware will give different results. Case in point, a buddy of mine made a nice grey gradient for the background on his webpage. Easy on the eyes at 24bit. Bad banding on my old Matrox card at 16bit. We checked it on an old Diamond Stealth card at 16bit and it looked horrible with uneven bands with shades of green and purple in them.

    Of course, it all comes down to what half of the replies to this article have said, the web is not print publishing, you cannot have pixel perfect designs for 100% of the audience. Websites that are built for standards compliance and accessibility first and eye candy second will always be more robust in face of alternative browsers and browsing platforms.

  • Reminds me of an old TV technician joke: What does NTSC stand for?
    Never Twice the Same Color (prob. referring to the inevitable drift of a analog tint control)

    Although drifing off-topic, but still very geek, I've always heard it as "Never The Same Color", which rolls off the tongue better.

    DeepGeekStory: Most people have heard of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, where people get dressed up, throw rice and toast, and yell lines at the screen. Fewer have heard of the little known sequal (sorta) titled "Shock Treatment". People also get dressed up as characters in Shock Treatment, act out the parts, and yell lines.

    One song (Looking for Trade) is filmed under red light with red walls, with white spots of color. A friend yells the line just before the song starts: "Hey, Show us your complete disregard for the NTSC format!!". Of course, on televisions (including projectors, which is how we were watching the movie), the red smears and blurs across the screen because of NTSC's lousy color signal handling.

    ObObservation: Could you ever have a NTSC colour signal? Or would be oxymoronic, like a PAL color signal?


  • Well, someone didn't read the article. Using the word "machine" in reference to this problem shows that your clue level has dropped off the charts, as it has nothing to do with hardware.

    First of all, you're completely missing the methodology of the testing procedure (as are many other Slashdot readers). You're also assuming that they displayed the color on two separate machines simultaneously with different versions of a browser and just eyeballed 'em to see if they looked the same. This could not be further from the truth. From the article:
    We started by creating a test page with all 216 colors. We placed a 60 x 60 GIF in the center of a table cell with CELLPADDING=10 and BGCOLOR set to the same HEX value as the GIF. What we're hoping for is that the little square GIF in the center will be identical to the color of the cell. If we can see the square -- even in the slightest degree -- it means that something went wrong.
    You can look at the te st page [] to see what they're referring to (I'd suggest dropping down to 8-bit/256-color to get the point).

    It has nothing to do with colors not looking quite right from one videocard/monitor/OS to another, it's all about the way the browser/OS match colors. That is, if you tell the browser to display #CCFF66 in 8-bit mode, it has to find the closest match that's actually in its available palette. Here is the problem: some browsers might determine that the closest match is #CCFFFF and some might determine that the closest match is #CCFF00.. and then when you throw in a GIF that's supposed to be the same color, your computers tends to use a completely different "algorithm" for determining how to match the GIF's color. So, the actual internal HEX value associated with a single-color GIF that's #CCFF66 and a section of a page with BGCOLOR set to #CCFF66 might not be the same on two different browsers. It is a tangible and measurable difference in values.

    This isn't some sort of video-dependent thing or weird, quirky phenomenon that just makes colors "kinda look different." There is a qualitative variation in the way that colors are selected, regardless of how similar (or different) they might appear, depending on your monitor.

    Although you could test more browsers and operating systems (this test was only concerned with Windows and Mac), there is nothing arbitrary about these 22 colors.
  • Actually, on a typical PC, the perceptual difference between 0x00 and 0x33 is the same as that between 0xCC and 0xFF. In the absence of any gamma correction, the transfer function from frame buffer value to CRT brightness is close to the inverse of the transfer function from CRT brightness to perceived brightness. Which means the pixel values should be perceptually coded.

    In fact, JPEG relies on perceptual coding, so that the perceived effect of the lossy algorithm is minimized.

    The exceptions to the rule are SGI machines (which were designed with ray-tracing in mind, so they assume physical coding in the frame buffer and use gamma correction to convert to perceptual coding) and Macs (which have a gamma correction intended to mimic the dot gain of the original Laser Writer.)

    For more than you ever wanted to know about gamma, see Charles Poynton's Gamma FAQ [] and the sRGB proposal [].

  • Wish I could claim some kind of freak genetic abnormality that allows me to remember obscure stuff, but in reality, I fought with it for over a week trying to get Photoshop 5.5 to work as well as 5.0 did for me. It's hard to forget such pain.

  • If they think that slight color shifts are a problem, they need to standardize everyone else's: browsers, OSs, graphics cards, monitors, viewing conditions, and eyes. Enjoy.

    That's exactly what the friendly folk at Microsoft are trying to do.

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @12:09PM (#794133)
    Agreed. There's just no way to get everyone's display to look the same, even if everyone is browsing in 24-bit true color on exactly the same platform. Monitor settings vary widely unless they've all been carefully (and expensively) calibrated, and then only for awhile. I have a hell of a time getting the widely disparate monitors on the three machines I use to be reasonably close to each other. Add the extreme difference in default gamma between Macs and PCs, and well, it's a lost cause.

    What you need here is good design. Contrary to what appears to be popular belief on the web, good design is always centered around the clear presentation of content, and it aims for simplicity. If you keep those goals in mind, it's not going to matter much if the few graphic elements on your pages don't look the same on all monitors.

    Even if the principles of good design did not dictate graphic simplicity, real-world bandwidth does. There are a LOT of 14.4k, 28.8k, and 33.6k modems out there. Moreover, just because you compress the heck out of your graphics doesn't mean crap when they are decompressed into RAM. And yes, it's trivial to build a 1k GIF or JPEG that expands into a multimegabyte block of RAM, and there are plenty of dolts doing it. And on older, slower machines, of which many remain, deeply nested tables take forever to render.


  • Plasmic said: "Well, someone didn't read the article. Using the word "machine" in reference to this problem shows that your clue level has dropped off the charts, as it has nothing to do with hardware."

    Whoa, put away the flamethrower! I did indeed read the article. If I made a couple of mistakes, it doesn't mean I'm "off the charts." Because I wasn't entirely in error. Let's assume, for now, that it does indeed have nothing to do with hardware (caveat: keep reading). Even so, the 22 colors under discussion might not be right in your environment, because how many of us are using one of those browsers (NN, IE) on one of those platforms (Win, Mac)? Lots, but probably not all. So the color matching on your chosen platform (Linux, and HP like the parent post said) might be different yet again. Even without taking hardware into account, there are tons of variations that the article didn't account for. So, there's essentially no web-safe palette, at all. You could probably scope out your demographics, discover that ~50% of people are using some IE variant on win9x, and create a "web-safe-enough" palette.

    But, if hardware makes no difference, then what about this (from page 5 of the article):

    Admittedly, we got different results in what would seem to be the same conditions: one Win9x machine would fail for a color, and another such machine wouldn't. We decided to play it safe. Really safe. We found that only 22 of the 216 colors we began with did not end up being shifted incorrectly in at least one viewing environment...

    And then they linked to the "reallysafe palette" from there. Why would windows machines with (presumably) similar software setups behave differently? Isn't it possible that it's somewhere in the video driver, and therefore at least partly hardware dependent?

  • >> If you wanna browse in four colors you can, but why should my experience be spoiled by whiny pathetic ten year old technology huggers?

    Apparently you didn't read the article. The biggest incompatibility is trying to present colors the same to both High Color(15 and 16 bit) and True Color(24 bit). Even if you leave the old 8-bit browsers out of the picture, you have to contend with the fact that there is no compatibility between High and True Color. There is no overlap: if a color is represented in True Color, by mathematical definition it is not represented in High Color.

    Seeing as how ~56 percent of people use High Color and ~38 percent use True Color, you've got a real problem there. You cannot present the same high-quality image to both audiences. Getting rid of High Color settings would largely solve the problem, but unfortunately, these people are in the majority.

  • Thanks for the link []. Yikes.

    I've always been partial to Philip Greenspun's [] philosophy of Web design []. It's a classic.

    Now hiring experienced client- & server-side developers

  • No I'm not the poster you were commenting to, but I do agree with them.

    And yes I did read the article and do understand their testing methodology. I did load their test page and the "super amazing happy safe 22 color pallette" that they reccomend. But even on my relativily mainstream system their 22 colors didn't all match the backgrounds. And that's on a Win2k box with a TNT2 card and recent drivers. Sure at 24 bit color where I normally spend my time they all matched up just fine. But at 16-bit and 256 color even the 22 "Safe colors" didn't all match gif to background.

    And that's precisely what they claim won't happen. This is windows (which they claim to have tested) and it is Netscape (which they claim to have tested) and the colors they claim won't shift did indeed shift. So by their own arguments there are at least 5 more colors that should be dropped from their list.

    I won't get sucked back into the argument that the web is fundamentally different than any other design media currently in existance and why you have to give up some control to work with it since I'm getting sick of it. I do deal with it on a daily basis when talking to clients (I just had one who wanted his site to match the colors on a building across the street from his office!) and 9 times out of 10 a few minutes of explanation and a quick demonstration of shifting color settings on their monitor and they start to "get it".

    But after viewing Razorfishes own website a few months ago when that whole thing blew up about them getting sued for doing a piss poor job I'm not surprised that some of their senior designers don't "Get it". And frankly after looking at their site I don't see how a company could have expected a well designed and functioning site from them. Don't people even visit the homepage of the people they hire?

  • Brilliant. Give this man a cigar.

    The common forms of color blindness do not refer to the inability to distinguish any color, merely certain colors and shades. Take a color blindness test [] and see if you are a sufferer.

  • It's not that I hate fighting these battles per se, it's that I keep having to fight them, over and over and over again, regardless of how many times I try to put my foot down.

    What makes it even more difficult is when you fight the battle, then some web weenie with FrontPage in hand "designs" a web page that does exactly what they want (on *their* monitor/computer) and then they treat that person like he's an expert and assume you don't know jack.

    And the weenies are winning every time. For example, I sent e-mail to saying I could not get to the sub-catagories using Opera. They throw up an annoying ad, and then it redirects to the SAME ad. I got e-mail back saying I should use IE or Netscape to view their site. :(

  • I disagree.... the differences in high-color and true-color representations of a given 24-bit RGB value are going to be vastly overshadowed by differences between the cheap consumer-grade SVGA monitors the pages are being viewed on.

    It makes sense to obsess about a few LSBs of RGB data only if you know the display device is capable of rendering the difference meaningfully and consistently. That isn't the case when you're designing web pages for Joe Six-Pack.
  • I think it's become acceptable use to say 'I'm color-blind' instead of 'I have a red-green color defect'. The common usage has shifted to this interpretation. Besides, if I used the latter I'd feel like a pretentious ass and I'm not sure my audience would always know what I'm talking about. People who don't suffer from color-blindiness don't necessarily know that it's (usually) a problem with red and green.
  • The real problem here is the customers who insist upon complete control. They think "publishing," and somehow think that they have ultimate control over all things, and thus ultimate control over how it is presented to the viewer.

    The web is a different medium. You don't take radio rules and apply them to TV, and vice versa. What works well for glossy color magazines won't work well for an indie newspaper.

    I'm still fighting battles with folks. The latest here is the use of the corporate logo. The brand-identity weenies complain that there has to be one inch of whitespace around the logo, and the logo can not appear any smaller than certain dimensions, and it has to appear in the correct colors.

    A corporate image is something very important. It projects the corporation's image upon the public, and as the most visible part of the corporation, it is what the public percieves.

    Graphic norms for corporate images are the guidelines to ensure consistentness of the appearance. They have been elaborated by skilled designers who are experts at making graphics look right. It is quite fortunate that they are able to precisely specify how a logo should be used ("1 inch of white space all around"), so nerdy web monkeys who know fuck-all about graphic design won't screw-up the all-important corporate image. By simply following the graphical specifications, they can turn-out perfect work most of the time.

    Indeed the web is a different medium; the RGB phosphors are not the same thing as the CYMK inks used on paper. Most importantly, they do not share the same color "gamut"; colors that can't be printed look great on a screen (think of a full green (#00FF00), and vice-versa. Whole treatises have been written on the subject of conversion between RGB and CYMK, and it's likely that plenty of ink will flow for that subject. So, indeed, the graphics have to be, if not wholly redesigned, at least, skillfully adapted for usage on the web. The problem is that the print designers are only slowly being make aware of the phospors limitations. So, instead of bitching at the designers for the "silly 1 inch of white space", tell him how the colours are rendered on a CRT, so he can adapt his work to the new medium without botching it.

  • Reminds me one day when the girl who was reading the news on TV was wearing a blouse with HORIZONTAL black & white lines that were about 2 scan lines high.

    Can you imagine the razzle-dazzle it did on NTSC???

  • I hope they were happy writing you a $200 check for that...
  • As soon as I saw 'webmonkey' and 'Razorfish' I knew where this was going. I've got to join the chorus singing "design for standards, usability, and accessability" and just nod my head and smile at the pixel perfectionists. As I've said for years, the Web is NOT a book or magazine, and treating it like some jumped-up animated version of said media is a dead end.

    Cases in point:

    When the photographic process was invented, it was treated as just a new kind of painting or drawing. Fortunately there were experimental people who realized that it was a new medium with new rules.

    When moving pictures were first invented, early films were made of stage plays. One camera, mounted in front of the center of the stage, never moving. Thankfully directors and cinematographers figured out rather quickly that this is horribly boring.

    25 years from now we'll be saying that when the web was invented people treated it like a book or magazine, or maybe a little like TV. I predict that 25 years from now we'll consider these concepts quaint early forays by curmudgeonly glue-stained and Xacto-nicked designers.
  • It is quite fortunate that they are able to precisely specify how a logo should be used ("1 inch of white space all around"), so nerdy web monkeys who know fuck-all about graphic design won't screw-up the all-important corporate image. By simply following the graphical specifications, they can turn-out perfect work most of the time.

    I am the graphic designer. :-)

    The identity weenies are zombies in suits. One actually pulled a little wooden ruler out of a drawer, held it up to the screen, and showed me how it wasn't an inch. The second problem was another suit-zombie running at 256 colors. On brand-new, 19" monitor hooked to an ATI Rage Pro video card(4MB). That one could be solved at least.

  • Opera is particularly good for this, since it gives you the ability to enlarge entire pages (including graphics) and you can easily toggle between the page's formatting instructions and your own. For someone with bad vision and/or color blindness, a 200% zoom combined with your own stylesheet using strict black/white coloring can make a bad site usable again.
  • Your statement about perceiving green most strongly is not quite true. We tend to perceive high inensity red strongest, followed by most of green and then blue. If you look at real landscapes, the sky blues are quite constant compared to green plants but small amoutns of red stand out. I seem to remember seeing where out blue sensitvity is something like 1/3 to 1/10 of the red/green while red and green are about the same but have different gamma curves.
  • They even say that the 24 bit mode shares nothing in common with the 15/16 bit modes except pure black and white. I'm guessing they didn't verify much of their results. Most video cards have 8 bit DACs and the 5/5/5 or 5/6/5 or 8/8/8 systems just set unusedlow bits to 0. Thats why pure white will be slightly brighter on 24 bit mode than 16 bit mode but at that intensity you most likly won't see the difference.
  • The real trick is not to use RGB but to use HSV and do the HSV -> RGB conversion in analong section on the back end of the A/D conversion.

    When we first got a 24 bit display at school, I wrote a program that would draw a rainbow which had wonderful changes between the colors except the orange bits. The thing just could not display enough shades of orange. I then wrote a color picker program that would display all 16 million colors over 16 pages of display. It turns out that about 8 million of thouse colors are brown when shown with other colors and even more look like ugly brown when shown by themselves. Extending the RGB model further just wastes more backing store memory for more shades of brown. From what I have seen, HSV would even work very well with 16 bit modes.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus