Bonus Tip for Creating a Color Palette for Color Blindness

I meant to start this article with tips on touch screen interfaces for color-blindness accessibility but my bonus tip ran on too long. So today it’s dessert first! I’ll get back to the touch screen entreés on the next article.

I’ve wanted to design a website for a color-blind client for a long time. Weird right? I think up odd challenges for myself all the time—occupational hazard I guess. The goal is to create a site that the client can see the site exactly the same as a non-color-blind person. I had an epiphany on how to succeed last year and I’ve been dying to try it.

When I worked with Ernst & Young many years ago, we printed our Powerpoint proposals on a Docutech color printer. I’ll wait while you quit shuddering…

Better now? Good.

After much frustration with the final output I finally decided to print the Powerpoint RGB color wheel on the Docutech and use it as my guide in picking colors. On screen the document looked like cotton candy but in print, fabulous! It was so successful, when my coworkers found out how I was doing it, they asked me to print out the dreaded color wheel for them too.

Why not use the same process as a guide to the color-blind challenge. With all the web tools available to test a site for color-blind accessibility, it’s possible to reverse engineer a color palette at the beginning of the design process. Take a color wheel image and run it through one of the accessibility site tools and now you have a viable color palette for your client.

Let me guess. You’re thinking the colors will be ugly. Well I just don’t believe that. There are no ugly colors, only people calling themselves designers that know nothing about color theory. True the site won’t be fully saturated but there are many beautiful sites with limited color palettes.

So why bother? Call me a perfectionist but I want 100% stakeholder buy-in. How can my client be 100% sold on my design when he can’t see it the way I do? Maybe they don’t know that with a conscientious designer, they can have a design that appeals to the masses that they can also fully appreciate.

I think this is a faster horses moment. If a client isn’t aware of what’s possible he doesn’t know to ask. I can never be satisfied with giving my client a faster horse when I know he needs me to invent a car.

Maybe he doesn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he’s color-blind. Trust me. No one will ever guess from the website and my lips are sealed.

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