Luminous Landscape Forum

Site & Board Matters => About This Site => Topic started by: AlanShaw on April 28, 2012, 08:28:53 am

Title: White Text on Black Background
Post by: AlanShaw on April 28, 2012, 08:28:53 am
Firstly let me say I love this site. The forums are a wealth of knowledge, the video tutorials are great and the articles are excellent.

The only thing I dislike is the white text on black background of the articles. It kills my eyes. I've been reading the Nikon D800 review and could only get about a quarter of the way through it before I had to stop. Surely I can't be the only one who thinks this?   ???

I did do a search before posting this and couldn't find anything. I'd be interested in other people's views.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: BJL on April 28, 2012, 09:03:27 am
A few comments on what seems to be a recurring and controversial topic amongst people who spend too much time reading online:

1. There is some technical discussion of the pros and cons, with the comments section perhaps better informed than the main post at http://uxmovement.com/content/when-to-use-white-text-on-a-dark-background/
One idea I get from there is that white-on-black might be better when reading in a darker environment, black-on-white more comfortable in a brightly lit environment.

2. A recent survey of readers of DPReview (which also uses a lot of white-on-black) had about a 70-30 majority in favor of white-on-black, but there were also calls for a user preference setting for the other 30%.

3. On many operating systems, there is an "Accessibility" option to toggle inverse video, and I find this a nice relief sometimes  --- to go into the white-on-black mode that you dislike. (For example, on an iPad, it can be assigned to a triple click on the Home button). Warning: this inverts everything, not just text, so photos go weird!
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Kirk Gittings on April 28, 2012, 11:03:21 am
On some software like VBulletin you can construct different "skins" with a great variety in this regard. Each viewer can choose their preference. I do not know if this software has such flexibility.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: jeremypayne on April 28, 2012, 01:46:03 pm
The only thing I dislike is the white text on black background of the articles.

http://www.readability.com/

Try this.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Bill Koenig on April 28, 2012, 04:00:34 pm
At least with Firefox you can set the screen colors to display anything you like, just go to Tools, Options, Content, Colors. There you can change the screen colors to whatever, or just tell Firefox to let pages display there own colors, or, you can tell it to display system colors.
Many choices, you can have your cake and eat it to. 
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on April 28, 2012, 04:04:16 pm
Or you can switch to Mac and enjoy the 21st century  ;)
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: John R Smith on April 28, 2012, 04:14:06 pm
Slobodan

That is so much better than it looks on my PC and IE.

John
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: PeterAit on April 28, 2012, 04:23:12 pm
What you say is true. I recall from way back when I did web design, white text/black background was considered one of the basic beginners' mistakes. Not as bad as purple text/black background, but still!
Title: White Text on Black Background: Reader mode of Safari
Post by: BJL on April 28, 2012, 06:32:22 pm
I had forgotten the "Reader" feature of Safari, as illustrated by Slobodan. Does that also work with the Windows version of Safari? (Does anyone use the Windows version of Safari?)
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Bernard ODonovan on April 28, 2012, 06:36:09 pm
Firstly let me say I love this site. The forums are a wealth of knowledge, the video tutorials are great and the articles are excellent.

The only thing I dislike is the white text on black background of the articles. It kills my eyes. I've been reading the Nikon D800 review and could only get about a quarter of the way through it before I had to stop. Surely I can't be the only one who thinks this?   ???

I did do a search before posting this and couldn't find anything. I'd be interested in other people's views.

Hi Alan

Try highlighting the text by dragging you mouse over it. This may help. It also acts as a book mark. You still benefit from the low light output of black on the rest of the page and the framing effect it gives to images, although if your still sensitive to large amounts of black near white you may still experience the effect slightly...

Bernard
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Bernard ODonovan on April 28, 2012, 06:48:18 pm

The thing I don't like about this site is when people insult our host Michael.

Here's a suggestion Michael – make the auto BS detector turn such text to white text on a white back ground. It's just firmware, right?

Come on Michael, put your "A" team on this for a firmware update ASAP.   ;D
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: AlanShaw on April 28, 2012, 06:58:35 pm
http://www.readability.com/

Try this.

Thanks Jeremy - problem sorted!
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: jeremypayne on April 28, 2012, 07:03:31 pm
The thing I don't like about this site is when people insult our host Michael.

Don't get your panties in a bunch.

Nobody is insulting anyone ... Yet ...

Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Bernard ODonovan on April 28, 2012, 07:12:16 pm
Don't get your panties in a bunch.

Nobody is insulting anyone ... Yet ...



Jeremy you seem to have the wrong end of my joke... No one in this thread...  ;D
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background: Reader mode of Safari
Post by: FranciscoDisilvestro on April 28, 2012, 07:19:18 pm
I had forgotten the "Reader" feature of Safari, as illustrated by Slobodan. Does that also work with the Windows version of Safari? (Does anyone use the Windows version of Safari?)

Yes, it does work in the Windows version.

Jeremy: thanks for the link.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Robert55 on April 29, 2012, 03:29:25 am
There is a very useful add-on for FireFox called 'Toolbar Buttons' which lets you add all sorts of buttons to the toolbar, among them a button to change from site and standard colors

At least with Firefox you can set the screen colors to display anything you like, just go to Tools, Options, Content, Colors. There you can change the screen colors to whatever, or just tell Firefox to let pages display there own colors, or, you can tell it to display system colors.
Many choices, you can have your cake and eat it to. 
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: stamper on April 29, 2012, 04:04:36 am
What about black text on a black background or white text on a white background? And for those who don't recognize humour this is meant as a joke. :) ;)
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on April 29, 2012, 05:02:12 am
I can't understand the problem. It seems clear to me that white text on a black background is less stressful on the eyes than black text on a white background. I've often had arguments about e-book readers with people who associate an e-book reader with a computer monitor with its transmissive screen. Their opposition to e-book readers is often based upon that experience of eye strain caused by the transmissive nature of the screen in conjunction with a dazzlingly white background.

After I explain that an e-book reader does not present a transmissive image like a computer monitor, but needs artificial or natural lighting to be seen, just as a paper book does, and is therefore no more strain on the eyes than reading a paper book, they begin to see the light.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on April 29, 2012, 05:12:07 am
Jeremy - good call on readability - I'm adding that to my system now - cheers!
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Schewe on April 29, 2012, 05:15:58 am
Firstly let me say I love this site.g this and couldn't find anything. I'd be interested in other people's views.

Uh huh...but you don't love ALL of the site, right? Read it or don't. If you don't like the site, ask for your money back–oh, wait, it's free...sorry, not a big deal from my point of view. If it is from your's, well maybe you can impact Mike's point of view (not bloody likely, but hey, ya never know)
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: jeremypayne on April 29, 2012, 06:23:58 am
Jeremy you seem to have the wrong end of my joke... No one in this thread...  ;D

Didn't get your joke, sorry about that.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: OldRoy on April 29, 2012, 12:25:12 pm
There are some "rules" in document design that have been around as long as printing. For example it's not only a rule, but easily verified, that more than about 65 characters in a line of text (the "measure" in conventional typesetting terms)  - including spaces - reduces readability steadily as additional characters are added. This has, quite literally, been known since Gutenberg's time. It's a rule that is regularly broken in website design. For example allowing the browser window to reset the line-length as it's adjusted (to accommodate other page elements) frequently leads to absurdly long lines of text. Now someone's likely to tell me that they don't have any difficulty reading lines longer than 65 characters, of course.

It's also been well established that reversed-out text (WOB as we used to call it "in the trade") for long copy as opposed to heads etc, also greatly reduces readability. I think I first encountered this - what seemed to me at the time a counter-intuitive idea - in one of Wally Olins' books on graphic design. Whether this applies to websites is for each individual to judge. I can't see why it wouldn't.

Roy
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: BJL on April 29, 2012, 01:51:13 pm
There are some "rules" in document design that have been around as long as printing. ...

It's also been well established that reversed-out text (WOB as we used to call it "in the trade") for long copy as opposed to heads etc, also greatly reduces readability.
One qualification: what works for reading printed material, which requires enough background light to illuminate it, does not necessarily applied to reading "self-illuminated" material like a computer screen, which can be done in an other-wise very dimly lit environment so that everything except the screen is quite dark. Then, avoiding the brightness of a mostly white screen can reduce eye-strain. Bear in mind that that a lot of web-browsing is done late at night, and even as reading in bed ...

So I like the choice, just as good book-reading apps offer both BOW (normal) and WOB (night mode) ... and also black on sepia, which is my daytime favorite.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: OldRoy on April 29, 2012, 03:52:38 pm
My own "book reading app"is, erm, usually a book! :)
Roy
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: dreed on April 30, 2012, 11:28:22 am
Well, consider that the default way in which text is displayed in the forums is dark on light...
Title: White on Black text? Why?
Post by: meyerweb on May 04, 2012, 09:20:24 am
I'm not sure why LL has chosen white text on a black background for it's articles, but it's really, really a lot harder to read than the reverse. Reading this text in the forum, in black on white, is easy. Reading an article on camera design in white on black is really eye-straining. And somewhat ironic.  LED monitors, and font smoothing techniques just don't seem to work as well on reverse type, and there's a reason (other than simplicity and cost) that books aren't routinely printed in white type on a black background and every single operating system and word processor has long since moved to white on black. The human eye simply sees this combination better.

We're long past the days of CRT monitors writing green letters on a black screen.  Can LL please join the 21st century? My 58 year old eyes will thank you.
Title: Re: White on Black text? Why?
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on May 04, 2012, 10:24:01 am
I'm not sure why LL has chosen white text on a black background for it's articles, but it's really, really a lot harder to read than the reverse. ...

It definitely is not... For me. I hate Flickr for the white background, and every other page with it. Coming to the sites like LL ( e.g., Fred Miranda, DPReview) is a relief.

EDIT: There already is a thread about the same issue, the last post was only five days ago: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=66476.0
Title: Re: White on Black text? Why?
Post by: meyerweb on May 04, 2012, 11:19:23 am
If you've got flicker from the background, you seriously need a new monitor or video card. Are you using the same computer you used in 1995?
Title: Re: White on Black text? Why?
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on May 04, 2012, 11:45:39 am
Very funny. Wait, there are no emoticons indicating you were kidding. So you must be serious then? If so, your reading problem is much worse than feared.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Tom Frerichs on May 04, 2012, 12:06:07 pm
I'm not too paticular about white on black or black on white...

But grey on white, particulary when the designer has decided to go all CSS and chose a tiny font with no leading, is hell on my eyes.

I don't have any problems reading LuLa's content.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on May 04, 2012, 12:11:35 pm
... I don't have any problems reading LuLa's content.

But, but... Tom, it seems that I do: I see this post of yours in duplicate!? ;)
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: mguertin on May 04, 2012, 12:14:44 pm
I merged the two threads just in case anyone is confused about it.
Title: WOB: "A Critique of Contemporary Camera Design"
Post by: OldRoy on May 04, 2012, 05:40:13 pm
If anyone needs convincing that WOB renders dense copy more-or-less unreadable, I offer this piece as compelling evidence. Having lines of text comprising no less than 100 characters, plus excessively long paragraphs, adds injury to insult.

Now, someone's going to tell me that it's perfectly legible.

Roy
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: David Sutton on May 04, 2012, 06:31:17 pm
I never had an opinion about this (or even thought about it I confess) until I downloaded the plug-in from readability.com as mentioned earlier in this thread.
When it converted the text from “A critique of contemporary camera design” from an average of 250 characters per line to 80 and black on white, it was as if my whole body suddenly relaxed. What an eye opener. Thanks to Jeremy for the link.
Title: Re: WOB: "A Critique of Contemporary Camera Design"
Post by: BJL on May 04, 2012, 07:06:18 pm
Having lines of text comprising no less than 100 characters, plus excessively long paragraphs, adds injury to insult.

Now, someone's going to tell me that it's perfectly legible.
Well, it seems that many of us managed to read it, judging from all the comments!

But seriously, I agree that the essay has significant readability issues, though for me color scheme is not the worst of them. I had not thought about the too long lines, or the nice fact fact both Readability and the Reader feature of the Safari browser fix that too. You could also fix it in a more fiddly way, by resizing the browser window to be narrower: this site uses the traditional HTML web-site style of reflowing text to fit the width of the window. I blame 16:9 HD video shaped screens for stretching many websites too wide for those of us who use computers more for reading than for movie viewing: give me my old 4:3!

Unfortunately, neither Reader and Readability insert extra paragraph breaks!
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: OldRoy on May 05, 2012, 04:02:51 am
The generally accepted wisdom is that characters per line shouldn't exceed 65. Search Google Images for "Gutenberg Bible" to verify that this has been known for quite a while. Look at almost any magazine, book or newspaper.

Obviously website design, where the output aspect ratio and size is not fixed, introduces a complicating factor, however the principle remains valid. Whilst we're on the subject it's also a general rule in print media that body copy needs to be in a serif font, serifs aiding readability. Again, websites impose some specific considerations however given the ever-increasing resolution and quality of screens I don't see why the same rules would become irrelevant.

Roy
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 05, 2012, 07:51:52 am
Serifs really only work with very high resolutions screens and generally with larger sizes - perhaps when we start seeing well over 200ppi and closer to 300ppi as standard?  I'm sure serif looks good on the new iPad screen, for example, although it will also depend on the colours being used and the aliasing etc.

For the vast majority of the web being viewed on devices that are either very small (even if hi-res) or pretty large (and lower res), sans serif is the better option for the moment.

What will be interesting is whether generations brought up on the "clean" sans serif web will easily adapt to accept serifs as technology provides the option?
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on May 05, 2012, 08:11:31 am
I'm really surprised that on a photography forum there is confusion about this issue.

White text on a black backgoround is less stressful on the eyes. It's as simple as that.

Photographers in this digital age spend a lot of time peering at a computer screen. The totally white background from a transmissive screen, such as computer monitor, represents a lot of bright light. Staring at such a screen all day long, including purposes other than photography, can be stressful.

A white text on a black background is much less stressful, for those who value their eyesight.
Title: 65 characters per line and portrait shape for reading! And bring back the serifs
Post by: BJL on May 05, 2012, 10:34:33 am
The generally accepted wisdom is that characters per line shouldn't exceed 65.
Quite, and no one is disputing that! Another related guideline seems to be that reading material dominated by text usually works better in "portrait" shape, about 3:4. Only picture books favor "landscape". Both Readability and Reader also wisely give this portrait format.

So to elaborate on my previous comment, one solution is to narrow your browser window to have the main text region in a roughly 3:4 portrait shape (so about square overall?), which seems to be what this site is designed for: that will reflow the text of LuLa articles closer to that 65 character ideal.

Also, on serifs, I agree with both previous posters:
- I look forward to the day when we can move beyond sans serif fonts like Helvetica (Apple's favorite) and Arial (Microsoft's response), which should be relegated to signage.
- This needs screen resolution to increase, to what Apple has dubbed "Retina" resolution levels, about 3000 pixels per viewing distance.
- This seems to be coming, with the 2048x1536 screen of the 2012 iPad a harbinger of 3K or 4K displays coming soon to many desktops.

EDIT: maybe serif fonts do not need so much resolution: I just realized that Reader on my iPad 2 uses a serif font (Palatino?), and it works well even with this mere 1024x768 display. So maybe those simple, chunky sans serif fonts on websites are a hangover from VGA display resolution?
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Kerry L on May 05, 2012, 10:35:06 am
I'm really surprised that on a photography forum there is confusion about this issue.

White text on a black backgoround is less stressful on the eyes. It's as simple as that.

Photographers in this digital age spend a lot of time peering at a computer screen. The totally white background from a transmissive screen, such as computer monitor, represents a lot of bright light. Staring at such a screen all day long, including purposes other than photography, can be stressful.

A white text on a black background is much less stressful, for those who value their eyesight.

Well, for me, I find reading this forum easier to read that the home site.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: 32BT on May 05, 2012, 11:17:00 am
Been there, done that, don't hold your breath... (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=35060.msg286896#msg286896)
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Peter McLennan on May 05, 2012, 12:16:38 pm
I'm really surprised that on a photography forum there is confusion about this issue.
White text on a black backgoround is less stressful on the eyes. It's as simple as that.

"It's as simple as that"?  Really?  Who says so?  Show us some attribution, please.

Since this is a photographic site, I'll make the following argument: Our eyes are autoexposure.  There's no "manual" setting for eyes. So, a black screen with white text causes the eye's iris to open up to accommodate the large dark area, thus overexposing the white text. We all know that overexposure leads to soft images. In addition, the accommodations forces the eye to use a wide aperture, thus creating a lower resolution image of the already-overexposed white characters.  The brain has a much more difficult time reading overexposed, fuzzy type.  

Therefore, white text on a black background is more stressful to read than the reverse.
Title: Re: 65 characters per line and portrait shape for reading! And bring back the serifs
Post by: OldRoy on May 05, 2012, 12:30:28 pm
....one solution is to narrow your browser window to have the main text region in a roughly 3:4 portrait shape (so about square overall?), which seems to be what this site is designed for: that will reflow the text of LuLa articles closer to that 65 character ideal....

Unfortunately the minimum before cropping begins seems to be >100 characters.
Roy
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on May 05, 2012, 12:57:29 pm
"It's as simple as that"?  Really?  Who says so?  Show us some attribution, please...

I really do not get it when people are trying to shove their preference down somebody else's throat. I, for one, strongly, absolutely detest any web site with white background, and gravitate toward sites with dark/black ones. I enjoy Safari's Reader feature not because it is BOW, but because it automatically uses a larger font, shorter lines and, the most important part, it dims to practically black all unnecessary crap alongside the article (e.g., ads, banners, etc.).

I do not need any "scientific" evidence or "authority" to tell me so. I trust my eyes. For me, there is a huge difference between printed pages (reflective), where BOW works fine, and screens (emissive). And I will grab a pitch and fork, call for a civil unrest , cause a revolution, go on barricades, etc., if someone tries to shove down my throat his preferences! There you have it! >:(

Title: Re: 65 characters per line and portrait shape for reading! And bring back the serifs
Post by: BJL on May 05, 2012, 01:11:54 pm
Unfortunately the minimum before cropping begins seems to be >100 characters.
Roy
I see that now: so part of the problem is that this site does partly follow the modern practice (which I do not like) of imposing restrictions on text layout, violating the original concept of HTML, which was that the web-site described mainly the "logical" form of the content (like "this is a heading" or "this should be emphasized") leaving to the browser (meaning both the software and the human) ultimate decisions about visual format, such as fonts, font sizes, and line-breaks.
Title: Ambient lighting levels affect whether WOB or BOW is more comfortable
Post by: BJL on May 05, 2012, 01:28:53 pm
The argument about the iris dilating more and reducing shrpness is partially valid, and is why dark on light (like these forums; light, not pure white though) is often good ... when the reading environment is well-lit, and the eyes are adjusted to roughly the brightness level of the page background.

However, things change when reading on the screen in a low light environment, something that has little counterpart when reading reflectively illuminated material. Then, a bright white background, far brighter than the rest of the environment, can cause eye-strain, with the shifts needed between the very different brightness levels.

Let me repeat that all the eBook reading software I know offers both BOW and WOB modes, with WOB typically considered as a "night" mode, for reading in a low light environment.

In a brightly lit environment, my favorite is black text on a pale-but-not-white background ... as in this forum software!

So, a black screen with white text causes the eye's iris to open up to accommodate the large dark area, thus overexposing the white text. We all know that overexposure leads to soft images. In addition, the accommodations forces the eye to use a wide aperture, thus creating a lower resolution image of the already-overexposed white characters.
That bit about overexposure leading to soft images is not so relevant in the context of text display: photographic issues like blown highlights and compressed contrast range in the highlights are irrelevant to a purely two-tone image, where the white parts can happily be pure 100% white.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Peter McLennan on May 05, 2012, 02:44:04 pm
I really do not get it when people are trying to shove their preference down somebody else's throat.

So, are you defending Ray's proclamation?  Without attribution, it's an opinion, an anecdote, not a fact.

I'm not forcing any rules down anybody's throat, I'm simply offering what I think is a well-reasoned argument for my view.  No need to man the barricades.

Yet.  : )

Title: Re: 65 characters per line and portrait shape for reading! And bring back the serifs
Post by: Farmer on May 05, 2012, 08:00:55 pm
EDIT: maybe serif fonts do not need so much resolution: I just realized that Reader on my iPad 2 uses a serif font (Palatino?), and it works well even with this mere 1024x768 display. So maybe those simple, chunky sans serif fonts on websites are a hangover from VGA display resolution?

That would be about 128ppi?  I find it still a bit dodgy, but I'm sure you wouldn't be alone in finding it workable.  There's also the question of how the aliasing is rendered.  For example, remembe the Epson Photoviewers?  The later version were 4-colour LCD screens rather than 3.  That sort of technology potentially can render better aliasing through a larger gamut (though in practice I doubt it's been tailored to do so).  So I think it's a two-prong approach - resolution and display technology.  For most users, though, the quality of the screens is not significantly different, but the resolution can be so I suspect that's where the advances will occur and perhaps drive change.

As to WOB being restive, I don't find that to be the case and I think it's a little bit (OK a lot of) a stretch to declare that as some sort of universal given for photogs.  For me, there's too much contrast.  I prefer, for example, the default of this forum.  Enough contrast to be easily read but not too much to make it glaring or difficult to read for long periods and also not so bright int he background as to blind me.

Of course, as photogs, our monitors should be at more pleasant brightness levels, below (perhaps well below) 120cdm^2, that should'nt be burning out retinas :-)

For me, readability has been a revelation - partnered with my mobile devices and a Kindle account (using Kindle Apps, not the hardware), and all for free - just brilliant (bad pun, I know).
Title: Re: Ambient lighting levels affect whether WOB or BOW is more comfortable
Post by: Bart_van_der_Wolf on May 05, 2012, 08:46:02 pm
The argument about the iris dilating more and reducing shrpness is partially valid, and is why dark on light (like these forums; light, not pure white though) is often good ... when the reading environment is well-lit, and the eyes are adjusted to roughly the brightness level of the page background.

[...]

In a brightly lit environment, my favorite is black text on a pale-but-not-white background ... as in this forum software!

I agree. In normally lit environments, black text on a light background is best for human vision, it also allows to reduce (uncorrected) eye aberrations (due to narrower pupil diameter). It also reduces background reflections from reflective surface displays (which give rise to additional eye-strain).

Quote
However, things change when reading on the screen in a low light environment, something that has little counterpart when reading reflectively illuminated material. Then, a bright white background, far brighter than the rest of the environment, can cause eye-strain, with the shifts needed between the very different brightness levels.

Well, that depends on the screen size / viewing distance. The Human Visual System (HVS) adjusts for average luminance differences over an approx. angle of 1 degree by pupil adaptation (contraction/dilation). This means that for the most part, a black text on a bright page would be beneficial for reducing eye aberrations and reduced eye strain.[/QUOTE]

Cheers,
Bart
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: meyerweb on May 05, 2012, 11:17:29 pm
"Very funny. Wait, there are no emoticons indicating you were kidding. So you must be serious then? If so, your reading problem is much worse than feared. "

No, not joking.  LCD monitors don't flicker, unless there's something wrong with your monitor or video card. If you have an LCD monitor that shows flicker, your backlight is most probably defective.  I've got one old Dell monitor that flickers, sometimes, because the backlight is going bad. None of my newer monitors show any flicker at all.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on May 06, 2012, 12:25:20 am
I was referring to Flickr, with a capital F, not flicker, of course.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on May 06, 2012, 08:50:32 am
"It's as simple as that"?  Really?  Who says so?  Show us some attribution, please.

Since this is a photographic site, I'll make the following argument: Our eyes are autoexposure.  There's no "manual" setting for eyes. So, a black screen with white text causes the eye's iris to open up to accommodate the large dark area, thus overexposing the white text. We all know that overexposure leads to soft images. In addition, the accommodations forces the eye to use a wide aperture, thus creating a lower resolution image of the already-overexposed white characters.  The brain has a much more difficult time reading overexposed, fuzzy type.  

Therefore, white text on a black background is more stressful to read than the reverse.


An excellent example of a flawed argument, Peter. ;D

Now it's true that the pupil of the eye dilates and contracts a bit like the lens on a digital camera in shutter priority mode. However, there are significant differences.

The eye does not attempt to equalize light intensity for a correct exposure (or an ETTR if you like) whatever the lighting conditions may be. A dark room appears dark, and is less stressful on the eyes as a consequence.

A bright sunlit scene at midday is much more stressful on the eyes, especially if there are added reflections from the sea and white sands, or shiny objects along a highway, for example.

If the pupil of the eye were to automatically dilate to fully compensate for any situation with reduced lighting, there would be no point in wearing sunglasses. Everything would appear just as bright as a result of the pupil dilating to compensate for the over all reduced brightness.

This clearly doesn't happen, and because it doesn't happen, white text on a black background is less stressful on the eyes, all else being equal of course. There are no doubt a number of factors that contribute to eye strain resulting from long hours spent reading on a computer screen, as many office workers do. Excessive brightness from the emissive computer screen is one of them.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 06, 2012, 05:42:03 pm
Actaully, our eyes do in fact do that, they are just limited in their range which is why sunglasses can be a benefit.  Of course, they can also be a danger - glasses that don't wrap around the sides allow significantly more UV through because the pupil dilates as a result of the overall brightness being cut by the sunglasses (as just one example).

Again, it's an issue of overall contrast because the dynamic range of the eyes is limited and if you try to make it deal with too much, something has to give (it's why, of course, you can't see in shadows when it's otherwise bright or why a torchlight can be absolutely blinding if you're coming from complete darkness.

Presenting both extremes isn't necessarily the best option :-)
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on May 06, 2012, 08:14:17 pm
Actaully, our eyes do in fact do that, they are just limited in their range which is why sunglasses can be a benefit. 

Everything is limited. The dynamic range of human vision is considered to be quite high. Certainly greater than a single exposure from any camera. However, whatever the biological reasons for this limitation, the facts appear to be that the eyes don't always fully compensate for changes in brightness, which is why wearing sunglasses in bright light can be less stressful, regardless of any UV considerations.

The problem is, the brightness of an emissive white computer screen is a light source in itself, a bit like a normal, fluorescent or energy-saving light bulb. It tends to be much brighter than the reflected light from any object in the room, such as the reflected light from the white pages of a book.

If your computer screen, at maximum brightness were stuck on the ceiling in a dark room, it would act as a normal light source. You could read a book sitting under it.

For people who are already suffering from eyestrain due to long periods working in front of a computer screen, it is sometimes recommended that yellowish green letters on a dark green background will relieve such tress, or white text on a black backround.

Some optical companies market special glasses that are claimed to reduce or prevent computer eye strain. The concept is similar to wearing sunglasses. I believe the tinting of such glasses is a urine-yellow. I think I prefer white text on a black background.  ;D

Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 06, 2012, 11:39:41 pm
The absolute dynamic range of human vision is very large (even if we do lose colour differentiation in low light), but our instantaneous dynamic range is substantially more limited.  We can't see into deep shadows at the same time as viewing bright, sunlight areas, for example.  We can view each quite easily by themselves, but not together.  It's a flawed argument to present absolute dynamic range for human vision as factor when discussing the ability to process extremely high contrast scenes.  It is only our instantaneous dynamic range that is applicable in such cases.

Typically, human vision is said to have at least 24 stops of range in total, however instantaneous dynamic range during normal daylight conditions is generally around 10-14 stops which isn't so different to better DSLRs (but much better than compacts).  Of course, in very low light conditions our instantaneous dynamic range would be much higher, but we would lose colour differentiation.

As to whether a monitor is more or less bright than surrounds?  Well, sitting in an office as I am currently the ambient lighting level at my desk (some flouro lights above, a little sunlight through blinded windows) is around 240lx.  A white screen from my monitor (a blank word document, for example) is 185lx.  The grey that is the background to this "reply" screen is 160lx and the green bar across the top at the title is 48lx.  This monitor is calibrated to 120cdm^2 (it's an Eizo).

So, in fact, a white background on my screen is less intense than the ambient light levels in a normal office during the day.  And, interestingly, the reflected levels from a white piece of paper (just a writing pad) on my desk is 150lx which is certainly slightly less than my screen, but not by a lot.

On the other hand, if it had a completely black screen (such as found in the articles here) that measures 4lx whereas an "average" of the black screen with the white text is 25lx.  That means I have items on the screen that vary by about 6x and is about 10% of the ambient light.  The BOW reply screen has an "average" of 160lx compared to plain white of 185lx, a variation of around 0.1x an about 65% of the ambient light.

To my eyes, the BOW is far less of a strain because my eyes are not trying to deal with more than their instantaneous dynamic range.

That all said, if someone prefers WOB I'm not going to tell them they're wrong - that's their preference!

And, of course, not everyone works in a "normal" office lighting environment (although, generally, for these sorts of tasks you really do want at least these lighting levels from an OH&S perspective) - lower or bright ambient lighting levels would change things, again due to the more limited instantaneous dynamic range of our eyes.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on May 07, 2012, 08:01:34 am
The absolute dynamic range of human vision is very large (even if we do lose colour differentiation in low light), but our instantaneous dynamic range is substantially more limited.  We can't see into deep shadows at the same time as viewing bright, sunlight areas, for example.  We can view each quite easily by themselves, but not together.  It's a flawed argument to present absolute dynamic range for human vision as factor when discussing the ability to process extremely high contrast scenes.  It is only our instantaneous dynamic range that is applicable in such cases.

Typically, human vision is said to have at least 24 stops of range in total, however instantaneous dynamic range during normal daylight conditions is generally around 10-14 stops which isn't so different to better DSLRs (but much better than compacts).  Of course, in very low light conditions our instantaneous dynamic range would be much higher, but we would lose colour differentiation.

Of course it is. Our instantaneous dynamic range within a fixed stare is probably less than that of some cameras, especially that of the latest Nikon DSLRs  ;) . But the instantaneous dynamic range of a fixed stare does not reflect the DR experience of most scenes that we view. The eye has a very narrow field of focus and is constantly changing its angle of view as it peruses any scene.

Within a certain dynamic range, which I believe is larger than that of any camera, the eye can almost instantly change its pupil diameter, from a minimum of 1 or 2mm to about 8mm in diameter, and the brain make adjustments which leave an impression on the mind of a very wide DR that no camera can capture with a single shot.

I never mentioned absolute dynamic range. It was you who first brought dynamic range into the discussion with the comment that the limited DR of our eyes is the reason we sometimes benefit from wearing sunglasses.

In circumstances where the eye is allowed more than a fraction of a second to adjust to changes in contrast, as it peruses a scene, its DR capability will also increase. As that adjustment period increases from a fraction of a second, to a few seconds, to a few minutes, the DR within a scene, that the mind can apprehend, gradually increases up to a maximum of maybe 30 EV, or 90dB, or 30 F/stops, as in the situation of a moonlit night where brightness levels range from a very bright object reflecting direct sunlight (the moon), to deep shadows that are almost black.

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As to whether a monitor is more or less bright than surrounds?  Well, sitting in an office as I am currently the ambient lighting level at my desk (some flouro lights above, a little sunlight through blinded windows) is around 240lx.  A white screen from my monitor (a blank word document, for example) is 185lx.  The grey that is the background to this "reply" screen is 160lx and the green bar across the top at the title is 48lx.  This monitor is calibrated to 120cdm^2 (it's an Eizo).

Very sensible! That means that the white of the white text on the Luminous Landscape black background is probably less than 185 lux on your monitor.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that a black screen with white text transmits less brightness to the eyes than a white screen with black text, and is therfore less stressful on the eyes. Turning down the brightness of one's monitor is definitely a good recommendation for anyone who reads a lot of black text on white. White on black is another option which, in conjunction with a low-brightness monitor, should produce even less stress in the long run.


Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 07, 2012, 03:46:04 pm
Sory, but I think that your logic here is flawed.  You are assuming that less light is less stressful.  I don't believe that's the case.

There's a reason why we have OH&S recommendations regarding lighting levels for various tasks.  Too little light causes eye strain.  Our eyes are not strained by the average office level of lighting, even though, as you note, that is greater than the white of a well calibrated monitor (of course, consumer monitors out of the box are approaching 400cdm^2 or even higher, compared to my 120cdm^2 at the office - so they're a different story).

Again, it's the contrast.  Your eye won't change due to focal changes to accomodate the full DR of WOB screens - it will set for the average light level because the screen is a fixed distance.  What will happen is as your eye moves around the screen there will be micro adjustments, of course, but the average light levels at each point of text will be very similar.  Thus, you have to deal with a very high contrast ratio and you have to deal with a very different background lighting level.  These are things that can strain an eye.

With a BOW scenario, for example, your eye is viewing somethign much closer to the ambient light levels and with less contrast within the scene, all of which means less work or effort for the eye and the total light levels are in no way stressful.

Constantly having to change aperture (dealing with varying brightness, wide contrast and high DR) will tire the eye far more than having a constant brightness, mild contrast and relatively narrow DR unless the brightness is extreme.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: AFairley on May 07, 2012, 08:50:59 pm
With a BOW scenario, for example, your eye is viewing somethign much closer to the ambient light levels and with less contrast within the scene, all of which means less work or effort for the eye and the total light levels are in no way stressful.

All of which is totally irrelevant to me if its is harder for me to makeout the letterforms and parse the lines of type (which it is).  It may not be a problem for you, but it is for me.  I just give up reading some of the long articles because the hassle of making out the words is just too great.  This could must be my eyes, or it could be that I spent years typesetting in graphics design shops, who knows?  It sure would be nice to have a click box on the pages to toggle between BOW and WOB.
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on May 07, 2012, 09:29:54 pm
Sory, but I think that your logic here is flawed.  You are assuming that less light is less stressful.  I don't believe that's the case.


Sorry I haven't been clearer. I'll try again. Of course I don't mean that less light is less stressful whatever the circumstances. If you're turning in for a bit of shut-eye, the less light the better. If one is performing a task, such as reading, one obviously needs sufficient light for the task. Trying to read in poor lighting conditions can also be stressful.

If you have calibrated your monitor so that its maximum brightness has been significantly reduced, that is obviously a measure which will tend to significantly reduce eye strain whether reading black text on a white background or WOB.

A source of confusion here may be in the definitions of white and black. These are not absolute terms, but relative terms. In reality we simply have two shades of grey.

Perhaps we could rephrase the question. Is pale grey text on a dark grey background more stressful than dark grey text on a pale grey background? I'm suggesting the answer in part depends on the degree of paleness of the grey. Of course there are other factors which contribute to eye strain, such as glare and not wearing spectacles with an appropriate magnification, or not wearing spectacles at all when one should be, etc.

In order to draw sensible conclusions from such comparisons we should attempt to keep all other variables the same so that the same pale shade of grey is used in both cases, in one case for the text and in the other case for the background.

I can appreciate that an excessively bright shade of pale grey text, at say 400cdm on a dark grey background could be more stressful to read than a dark grey text on a much less pale grey background, at say 100cdm.

But, let me ask you which you would prefer, to spend long hours reading black text on a 400cdm white background, or long hours reading a 400cdm text on a black background?

Out of curiosity, I checked the brightness levels of the white text on the Luminous Landscape home page. In Photoshop the RGB reading was just 204,204,204, for the text, whereas the white background to the picture of the Hasselblad 500 in the article "A Synthesis of History, Technology, and Art -By Richard Sexton" is 255,255,255.

That white background around the camera appears excessively bright to my eyes, and I think it's appropriate that the white text is less bright. If one were to criticise the arrangement of WOB on LL, I would say that the white text could be an even darker shade of grey. This might be less stressful for slow readers.


Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 08, 2012, 12:08:40 am
All of which is totally irrelevant to me if its is harder for me to makeout the letterforms and parse the lines of type (which it is).  It may not be a problem for you, but it is for me.  I just give up reading some of the long articles because the hassle of making out the words is just too great.  This could must be my eyes, or it could be that I spent years typesetting in graphics design shops, who knows?  It sure would be nice to have a click box on the pages to toggle between BOW and WOB.

Sorry, I'm confused.  The articles are in WOB which I'm suggesting is not as good as BOW.  And, again, I've said a few times to each their own, but for me, BOW is much better than WOB (which is what the current articles are and why I'm now using Readability and loving it).
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 08, 2012, 12:17:31 am
White and black are perfectly reasonable terms - I think most here understand the threshold at which grey becomes either black or white for general discussion.

Overall, reducing the contrast between the text, the background and the ambient light levels.  The key here is ambient light levels.  If you're reading in a darkened room at night, then a black background is usually very good, so long as the text isn't too bright, but in a lit office, for example, as I've demonstrated the contrast between the screen average and the ambient light is greater and that is likely to cause more strain.

To answer your question, I wouldn't use a 400cdm^2 monitor - no matter what, I'd turn it down (calibration is not the point).  I *might* decide it was useful if I was trying to see something in bright sunshine I suppose, but more likely I'd try to shade the monitor and turn it down.  In other words, I find that level of brightness too contrasted to any reasonable ambient light level I'm likely to encounter in normal events.

I'm talking about average environments in which people work and have reasonable lighting levels (200lx to 400lx).
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on May 08, 2012, 04:58:36 am
White and black are perfectly reasonable terms - I think most here understand the threshold at which grey becomes either black or white for general discussion.

Are you sure? Consider the attached image which I concocted in Photoshop. The grey text looks sort of whitish to me, and certainly whiter than the grey background surrounding the black square. But actually the text isn't whiter than the grey background. Both the text and the outer grey background have the same RGB values of 150,150,150, which I would describe as slightly paler than a medium grey.


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Overall, reducing the contrast between the text, the background and the ambient light levels.  The key here is ambient light levels.  If you're reading in a darkened room at night, then a black background is usually very good, so long as the text isn't too bright, but in a lit office, for example, as I've demonstrated the contrast between the screen average and the ambient light is greater and that is likely to cause more strain.

No argument here. I admit there are a number of contributing factors to eye strain.


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To answer your question, I wouldn't use a 400cdm^2 monitor - no matter what, I'd turn it down (calibration is not the point).  I *might* decide it was useful if I was trying to see something in bright sunshine I suppose, but more likely I'd try to shade the monitor and turn it down.  In other words, I find that level of brightness too contrasted to any reasonable ambient light level I'm likely to encounter in normal events.

As I already mentioned, you're very sensible ;D . But what about others? There are billions of people in the world, many getting a computer for the first time, and many who do not have much clue after using a computer for many years.


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I'm talking about average environments in which people work and have reasonable lighting levels (200lx to 400lx).

Can you provide some statistics on world-wide average environments involving computer monitors? I get the impression you might think the world is a more reasonable and well-organised place than it actually is.



Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 08, 2012, 06:32:44 am
I can tell you that it's easy enough to find average office lighting level standards - Google will do it for you.  We can't examine every possible case - clearly if we consider the partipants of this site who are involved in the discussion, it's mainly western cultures (numerous exceptions, but that's the majority).

If the discussion heads toward the minutae of semantics for the sake of them, it's pointless.

It's not unlike your grey/white/black query.  Most folks have probably seen the graphics of the illusion of colours.  To answer your question, though, yes I'm quite sure most people on a photographic website have enough of a graps to make reasonable decisions about where black and white come into being on the grey scale for the purpose of the discussion at hand.

For those who use monitors at brightness levels that I consider absurd (and that includes at least one extremely well known photo book author), that's up to them.  I can only suggest better options, I can't enforce them (well, at work I can, but that's a different story).
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Ray on May 08, 2012, 08:07:27 am
I can tell you that it's easy enough to find average office lighting level standards - Google will do it for you.  We can't examine every possible case - clearly if we consider the partipants of this site who are involved in the discussion, it's mainly western cultures (numerous exceptions, but that's the majority).

Standards are one thing. Implementation of such standards are often a different thing, and from my personal experience, I would say sometimes an extraordinarily and extremely different thing.

By the way, I'm disappointed you didn't correct my paragraph on the black background. I should have written, "because less light is transmitted from the words."
Title: Re: White Text on Black Background
Post by: Farmer on May 09, 2012, 04:22:16 am
I didn't think that you meant reflected, so I didn't see the point in "correcting" you.  Clearly you understand the mechanism involved :-)