I spend a lot of time on the web, doing research, reading the news, shopping, and social networking, not to mention doing my job. I have noticed that web design, like fashion design is very trendy. One of the latest trends I’ve noticed is using light gray text on a white background, or white text on a light green background, and other text-background color combinations that look stylish, but I can’t read. Well, ok, I can literally read them (as long as the font is over 6 pts.), but I can’t read fast and it’s a strain.

Here’s the data to back this up.

As people age, they experience changes in their vision. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, most of people over the age of 40 need glasses to read. But even when corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery, age-related changes in eyesight affect the speed at which visual information is processed.

Age can also contribute to computer vision syndrome—a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use. Common symptoms of computer vision syndrome include headache, eyestrain, dry eyes, and blurred vision.

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, people in the 40-60 year age bracket make up over half the users of the Internet. This demographic uses the web as a tool for research, shopping, and banking. As the rate of online instruction to non-traditional students grows, professional development will soon be added to this list.

One of the major contributing factors to the speed at which people can process visual information is contrast. When there is sufficient contrast between text and background, people can read more comfortably and comprehend what they are reading faster. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that most people find it easier to read dark text on a light background.

Blackboard Administrators and Course Developers can help all users navigate and interact in their courses faster and more comfortably by customizing themes and designing course templates. Themes and templates that present dark text on a light background for interactions that require more than just scanning such as content areas, course menu items, buttons, and modules, allow users to quickly find what they are looking for and interact with their online course tools easily. When locating content and tools is comfortable, students spend more time consuming content and collaborating, and less time hunting for where they need to go.

Blackboard Content Developers and Instructors can help students read and comprehend information better by creating content with sufficient contrast, making reading easier on the eyes. Students will spend more time in their courses because it is not a struggle to decode text. Headaches and blurred vision are lessened. When text can be deciphered faster, comprehension increases. Increasing reading comprehension gives people the opportunity to apply what they have read instead of spending the time rereading text and opening themselves up to computer vision syndrome.

The Blackboard Learn course environment can be very visually appealing without following the latest web design fashions. Customize themes, templates, and content for maximum reading speed and comprehension. Ditch light gray text on a white background and keep your users engaged longer and with greater comfort.

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