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14:1 Use Simple Backgrounds

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14:1 Use Simple Backgrounds

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 5 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Topic:

Graphics and Images


Guideline:

Use background images sparingly and make sure they are simple, especially if they are used behind text.


Comments:

Background images can make it difficult for users to read foreground text. A single, large, complex background image (including a picture) can substantially slow page download rates. If background images must be employed, use small, simple images with 'tiling', and/or keep the image resolution as low as possible


Sources:

  • Boyntoin, R.M., & Bush, W.R. (1956). Recognition of forms against a complex background. Journal of the Optical Society of America, 46, 759-764.
  • Cole, B.L. & Jenkins, S.E. (1984). The effect of variability of background elements on the conspicuity of objects. Vision Research, 24, 261-270.
  • Detweiler, M.C. & Omanson, R.C. (1996). Ameritech Web Page User Interface Standards and Design Guidelines. Ameritech (now SBC).
  • Hackman, R.B. & Tinker, M.A. (1957). Effect of variations in color of print and background upon eye movements in reading. American Journal of Optometry and Archives of the American Academy of Optometry, 34, 354-359.
  • Jenkins, S.E. & Cole, B.L. (1982). The effect of the density of background elements on the conspicuity of objects. Vision Research, 22, 1241-1252.
  • Levine, R. (1996). Guide to Web Style. Sun Microsystems.
  • Levy, E., Zacks, J., Tversky, B., & Schiano, D. (1996). Gratuitous graphics? Putting preferences in perspective. Proceedings of CHI’96, 42-49.
  • Spencer, H., Reynolds, L., & Coe, B. (1977a). The effects of different kinds and intensities of background noise on the legibility of printed text and numerals. London: Readability of Print Research Unit, Royal College of Art.
  • Spencer, H., Reynolds, L., & Coe, B. (1977b). The effects of image/background contrast and polarity on the legibility of printed materials. London: Readability of Print Research Unit, Royal College of Art.
  • Tinker, M.A. & Paterson, D.G. (1931). Studies of typographical factors influencing speed of reading: Variations in color of print and background. Journal of Applied Psychology, 15, 471-479.
  • Tinker, M.A. (1963). Legibility of print. Ames: Iowa State University Press.

Poor Example:

Complex graphics can obscure text, making it very difficult for users to read the sites content.

14_01_bad_example1

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