The use of colors in technical writing

Cristiane FREITAS, Viviana MACALUSO

Paris University, July 2019

Abstract

We come from different cultural and educational backgrounds and decided to analyze and focus on how colors may influence readability and, therefore, comprehension on technical documentation.
This matter came after we browsed a website from a marketplace corporation and we noticed that there was a lack of harmony and synchronicity between its marketing and documentation website. We noticed it mainly because the visual identity, particularly the use of colors and icons, was absolutely discordant. It was remarkable that the two websites were developed by different teams, what could eventually reveal an internal noise in communication, or even some problem in the enterprise architecture.
A simple misuse of colors can reveal much more than aesthetics, design or layout. And this seemed quite impressive to us. The color approach however can be very large, with multi-disciplinary, underestimated, usually treated randomly and not too scientific under the gaze of the academic community. We want to show that it can be theory-based and, by means of a user test, we intend to prove – practically – that colors should be treated with the importance they deserve, far beyond aesthetics and layout.
After applying a user test, we noticed that users react differently face to face with a colored and a black and white document.

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