If you struggled to read the text above, I don’t blame you.
Indeed, it’s there to prove a point. It says:
Stop writing text like this.
It’s really hard to read.
While you’re at it, please also stop writing text like this.
Half is yellow text on a white background, and the other half is white on yellow.
Too many websites and even print publications are using extremely low-contrast text design. Maybe it doesn’t bother some people, so they assume it’s fine for everyone else. But you know what they say about ass-umptions.
The user experience
Picture it from the user’s perspective:
You’ve stumbled upon an interesting website and are ready to dive in. But alas, the text greets you like a shy chameleon, barely distinguishable from its background. Is it a game? Like hide-and-seek, but with words? Sadly, that sounds a lot more fun than it is.
Accessibility and more
Let’s shed some light on why low-contrast text isn’t just a pet peeve but an accessibility and all-round communications disaster.
Scientists and expert communicators have long known that contrast plays a pivotal role in legibility. We process text-based information much faster when there’s a distinct contrast between the text and its background. But when contrast drops, the opposite occurs. The sprint becomes a slow-motion spectacle. At best, your readers don’t fully process your message. At worst, they come away annoyed, hastily closing your website, never opening it again.
Bad design hurts
Before you start rolling your strained eyes at me, did you know low-contrast text can even cause physical discomfort?
Many people have impaired eyesight, while even more have issues with light sensitivity or general neurological quirkiness. When these people attempt to read your low-contrast text, it can trigger eyestrain, headaches, and even migraines. I’d know because *SPOILER* I’m a neurologically quirky migraine sufferer.
But there are solutions
One of the most visually appealing tools is the Colour Contrast Checker. You can also check out the specific example I used in the image. Use it to double check your assumptions – your readers (and conversion rates) will thank you for your trouble.
Remember that optimal contrast is about more than accessibility, DEI, or doing the right thing. It’s about creating a visual world that feels comfortable, inclusive, and inviting – even to those without any issues. Like many things a company or pro communicator can do to enhance accessibility, it’s simply best practice across the board.
Did you know the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the National Eye Institute (NEI), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) are already stressing the importance of avoiding low-contrast issues in design?
It’s even been adopted by Google under its accessibility analysis on PageSpeed. Maybe one day it’ll be a ranking factor?
After all, (every) user experience matters.
Bonus points if you saw what I did there.