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?

Download these templates to start

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan