Data Reports, Color Blindness, and Mr. Green Jeans
by Scott Wallask, Managing Editor, BusinessObjects Expert
December 01, 2011
With color-blind users in mind, avoid report and dashboard pitfalls for choices in hue.
Yup, I am color blind. Just ask my wife. I often mistake green and brown for other colors, which can be an unfortunate situation.
For example, back in high school, I bought some pants that I thought were a light tan, only to find out they were instead a tint of green. My friends started calling me “Mr. Green Jeans,” after an old character in Captain Kangaroo, which was a children’s TV show that aired when I was a kid. It took many years to live down that moniker.
So I took interest recently during a discussion with a BusinessObjects trainer, who mentioned his team had looked into color blindness in terms of what hues to use in Xcelsius dashboards.
The idea behind the examination is that in some cases, a certain percentage of your users won’t appreciate a dashboard’s color scheme at best, and at worst they may mistake certain information based on their perception of colors.
Stephen Few, a data visualization consultant and principal at Perceptual Edge, wrote about color blindness and how it affects data presentations in a 2008 paper, “Practical Rules for Using Color in Charts.” He mentioned the following rule, which sounds like a good one to think about:
To guarantee that most people who are color blind can distinguish groups of data that are color coded, avoid using a combination of red and green in the same display.
Few went on to suggest that blue and red are better contrasting colors to illustrate positive and negative values that all people, including those who are color blind, can discern.
If you’re interested in how color schemes affect your data presentation, you should check out the rest of Few’s advice.
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