>Is it now safe for us WWW designers/developers to branch out from the
>original set of 256 hex colors?
>Lynda Weinman weighs in:
>"Though this might seem blasphemous to older readers of my books, or
>loyal website visitors, I believe it's safe to design without the
>palette. I believe this because so few computer users view the web in
>256 colors anymore."
Like everything, yes...and no.
Most of the recent data I've seen (based on browser detection logs on
major websites) puts the percentage of web surfers who are still viewing
the web at 8-bit color around 3-5%. All of the usual caveats go with that,
of course...generalizing from the broader population to the specific
population that are YOUR users is risky.
Additionally, the modal color depth appears (based on those same surveys)
to be 16-bit. Unfortunately, there is no single standard 16-bit color
palette, so assuming 116-bit color still makes it hard to predict
which colors are reliable.
Taking this out of the web arena and into the broader world of human
factors in general, I think the standard approach applies. Namely:
1. Know your users. (In this case, do some research on the likely
capabilities of the particular subset of the population for which you
2. DOCUMENT the assumptions you're making about them. (This may sound
silly, but it's important. The act of putting these things on paper
sometimes triggers the realization that they're actually invalid)
3. Design to meet the needs of the majority, but give specific thought
to how to handle the case where each of those assumptions is violated.
(For instance - let's say you assume that your users will be using
16-bit color. Well and good. Now...go back and make certain that your
design will respond gracefully in those cases where that assumption
It's very similar to the process for accomodating other exceptional
cases. With most user populations, we assume that the typical user
will have normal sight...but it's still important to make certain
that the alternate, less frequently occuring case of the user being
blind is handled gracefully.