Does anyone else find white text on black problematic?

HareBrain

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For the last few years I've had real problems with websites that have a dark background and pale text -- reading it for even a few seconds causes after-images, and much longer causes headaches. My vision prescription is up to date. I used to think this was just an effect of getting over 40, but so many sites use this combination that I wonder if it is actually just me. I thought I'd better find out before I start my campaign of fist-shaking at websites that use it.
 

Vertigo

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Some say it is easier to read; the perception of contrast is supposed to be stronger than black on white. I have taught a number of visually impaired people (not fully blind) over the last few years and they have always used zoomed in white on black displays for editing etc. as they find them much easier to read.

Another argument in favour of the black background is that there is much less light overall being transmitted from screen to your eyes and this is supposed to be less tiring for your eyes.

Didn't work for me though; the latest version of my editing software offered a white (and other colours) on black option or a black (and other colours) on white. I determined to spend at least five or six weeks trying out the white on black option but at the end of that time I reverted to black on white finding it easier on my eyes.
 

Ursa major

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I've just tried this in Word, with one version of a document with the page colour set to black (which automatically made the text white.) If anything, the white text on a black background was clearer, so if you're getting headaches, it may not be because of any difficulty reading the text (unless those using black backgrounds on their websites are using smaller text sizes of less suitable fonts**).

But perhaps the clarity of the text is an issue in itself, that it draws one to stare at the text more than normal.


** - I expect there's some sort of positive correlation between using unusual background colours and using less familiar examples of other parts of the image.
 

Vertigo

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Ursa, that's why I persisted for several weeks. I agree with you that the text appears clearer to read (hence why it is popular with visually impaired folk) but in the end I just didn't get on with it. Though I didn't suffer headaches or anything like that.
 

Ursa major

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I found it a bit disorienting at first -- the old brain is slower at adjusting to change than it used to be -- but soon found it okay.


Perhaps the black is just a bit too black, just as the white is a bit too white for some on here. (In the olden days, pure white and deep black were noticeable by their absence on computer screens and TVs.) If you look at the 'Check out related posts' section on that page, you'll see that the pure white text is used as a highlight; otherwise the text is a less glaring pale grey.
 

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It doesn't give me headaches, though I haven't spent any time reading lots of sites of that kind, but I do get an visual echo in the black spaces between the lines, a kind of blurred whiteness (analagous to the after-image you get on looking at bright light) which I find annoying. (Doubly annoying as it's carried on over to here now, so I'm getting grey blurred lines as I'm typing this. Grrr.)
 
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HareBrain

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Perhaps the black is just a bit too black, just as the white is a bit too white for some on here.

Yes, that Fantasy Faction page has nowhere near as bad an effect as some that do use pure white on black (I linked to it because I came across it this morning and hadn't made a note of any others). By the sound of it, it's not universal for, ahem, more mature users, and I should be mentioning it to my optician.

ETA: this site seems particularly bad.
 

TheDustyZebra

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I think, as TJ said, the white text brings up an after-image and it dances around and makes things go fuzzy.

I wouldn't want to read white on black as a regular thing. It's probably because I'm slightly older than Mouse and Ursa. :p (Though I do know that photography doesn't generally use negatives anymore, but that's an occupational hazard.)
 

Ray McCarthy

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White text on Black: It doesn't work so well for small text. I forget the explanation. It can be clearer and easier to read, but more tiring at the same time! BBC "PPM" used a black ground and white scale with with white needle. This was supposed to be the result of research. later meters used overlapping green and red pointers for stereo.
There were TWO reasons for VDUs being green:
1) Reduced flicker as a longer persistence phosphor.
2) Less tiring (this isn't always the same thing as clearer/easier to read!)

Later as colour was coming in the Amber or Orange was preferred as it was less tiring and clearer, worked better too as black text on amber background, had less screen burn and a less long persistence than green but shorter than white. The TV screen persistence must not be too much or else moving video has ghost like trails. It was unusual to even have static graphics much less video on VDUs. The Original IBM-PC was years behind other computers (CP/M S-100, other CP/M, Xenix, ACT Sirius 1 / Victor 9000, Tandy, Commodore, Apple II etc) in having NO graphics at all until later Hercules Mono and totally pathetic Slug death CGA, it wasn't till EGA that IBM produced a usable graphics card.
 

jastius

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For the last few years I've had real problems with websites that have a dark background and pale text -- reading it for even a few seconds causes after-images, and much longer causes headaches. My vision prescription is up to date. I used to think this was just an effect of getting over 40, but so many sites use this combination that I wonder if it is actually just me. I thought I'd better find out before I start my campaign of fist-shaking at websites that use it.

i didn't like those sites either, harebrain.. only looked sideways squinty eyed at that text.
whenever there is weird text colour size or font that is difficult to read, i copy and paste it into word and read it on a plain page. thats how i deal with such stuff.
my problem with retinal flash like that, is that my retinas are problematic, having been injured to the point of being detached as a result of a car accident.
harebrain it sounds like you may have very sensitive retinas that may be subject to pinholing, small torn areas.
please have an ophamologist do a retinal scan to rule this out, if you haven't already. the average optician has neitherthe equipment nor the training for such a survey, at least not over here, and many people have this problem but undiagnosed and untreated.
caught early, its an easy laser surgery fix, in office, and not the extended surgery to try and rebuild your eyes that may still leave you with partial blindness, double vision or torn tendons in the eyes (cross-eyed), or if there isn't much left to work with, legal blindness.
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

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I don't really care for it myself, either. The ones I really don't like, though, are ones that deviate away from the monochrome.


Greens and electric blues are the worst. Dark red as a background isn't bad, though it is often hard to see text on such...and so with it often goes yellow, another horrid text. Ugh.
 

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