Lesson learnt from downloading fonts from a German website

Of late. there have been a few good articles of typography and typography resources like that of ParticleTree. Following the from one links I ended up on the German Fontshop site trying to download some free fonts not available elsewhere.

Not a problem I thought, just use babelfish.altravista.com to translate the web pages on the fly it will be easy. That idea fell at the first hurdle, the preview/select font for download is done in flash. Once I worked out you need to tell the flash application how many CPU’s you intended to use the fonts on (I was greedy I said 2, both Mac & PC), the next thing you had to do was register. Other than having to change my the postcode from 6167 to 12247. I managed to navigate the seven part registration download process without needing any translation (all these pages where HTML and capable of translation) because the process was logical and at the end of each page was two buttons, the one on left in red took you back a step the one on the right in green took you to the next step.

That got me thinking about usability and using colour to convey additional information. As a web designer you are bombarded that you should not use colour to convey information, because around 12% of the population have problems distingushing colours. As such a lot of web designers do not even try to use colour to convey additional information. Which is a shame, because colour is a tool that you can use to make it more intuitive for the remaining 88% of the population.

Just don’t say press the green button to start, otherwise you are not only disadvatanging people with colour deficencies but also users of Safari and Camino because of the way they render buttons. OK that makes it roughly 20% of users can not see coloured buttons, but the other 80% still have a can get the additional contextual information that colour allows. Below the buttons I have also included screen shots from Firefox and Camino.

Button experiment
Firefox Buttons

Firefox buttons

Camino Buttons

Camino buttons

5 Responses to “Lesson learnt from downloading fonts from a German website”

  1. Derek Featherstone Says:

    Hi, Nick!

    Great example! The “don’t use colour to convey information” seems to be suffering from the same myth “don’t use tables!” There are good places to use colour just as there are good places to use tables.

    Looking at the Camino buttons (and knowing that Safari will be much the same) – I’m wondering if we can rely on position alone to indicate function? Do you think it is enough to know that in German, the language is read from left to right and that right implies moving forward and left would be back? Would it be different in a language that reads right to left? Would we present buttons differently there? Haha – your small post has me buzzing with questions!!

  2. Ben Buchanan Says:

    I think the point that is often lost is that you should not convey meaning with colour alone. Using colour for those who can see it just seems to get thrown out with the proverbial bathwater.

    As for instructions… I would say ‘click the green button’ is poor copy. Better copy would be ‘click the Anfang button’ since that will work for anyone.

  3. RE Mogul Says:

    There are thousands of fonts that are FREE & SUPER EZ to get.

    Don’t bother with the rest.

  4. Nick Says:

    RE Mogul, this post is about user experience.

    As for fonts, not all fonts are created equal. You need to start here I Love Typography and keep reading Typographica and Typophile.

  5. RE Mogul Says:

    Awesome Links ! Graci !

    I realized the entire argument is a moot point.

    Less is always more, on the web.

    The truth: the red button above is not needed. Your browser already has a red button — the close-window button/ back button. A statement to this effect could be included in the text, which would be accordingly ignored, by most users.

    This leaves only the green button. Since there is only one button: it doesn’t matter what it says or what color it is — as there is only one.

    Since the window (by good design) is not a pop-up it will not cause much pause before clicking the one button — it is JUST THE INTERNET after all. I’ve never had any qualms about clicking a button while on the internet, on legit sites.

    If one also make the page default to: focus on green button, then a simple enter key would solve everything. The enter arrow is universal. This would make use of another fantastic and very useful button — the enter key.