Are your technical documents colorblind?

What impact does color have on your technical documents? Rhonda Bracey, on CyberText, outlines seven ways that color communicates meaning.

technical document color

technical document colors

Technical Documents & Influence of Color

Actually, she credits these seven to Rob Mills, who wrote an article for Think Vitamin on How Color Communicates Meaning, where he describes how color:

  • Affects your mood
  • Communicates invisibly
  • Has cultural significance
  • Inspired by our surroundings
  • Political associations
  • Religion can be linked to colors and
  • Age effects color preferences

Technical Documents & How Color Improves Readability

One of the reasons for considering color is that it also influences how others read (and use) your documents. For example, by selecting different colors in your documents, you can:

  • Attract attention, e.g. with error messages in red
  • Enable accurate identification by bolding or changing the weight of a color
  • Show structure by shading information so it goes from deep to lighter hues
  • Aid comprehension, such as ensuring that the document can be read easily on different devices

Does color matter in technical documents?

You can choose to make it matter.

For example, make color draw attention to key points.

Help the reader find the critical information faster.

If we want an important part of a document to be noticed, put it in color.

Risks when using color in technical documents?

One final thought.

The same color can mean different things to different people.
For example, what does red mean to the following:

  • Bank
  • Hospital
  • Engineer

It could be that for:

  • Banks it means ‘in the red’, i.e. unprofitable
  • Hospital it means healthy, i.e. strong red heart and
  • Engineer it means danger!

How do you use color in technical documents? What mistakes should we avoid?