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Marketing 501

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Marketing 501,

Where Style Meets Function: ADA and Color Theory

In case you missed it, we recently celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law, kickstarting a movement that has provided both protections and opportunities for the millions of Americans living with disabilities.

In addition to improving physical accessibility in buildings, providing reserved parking and offering modified work schedules, there are several improvements to be made to make the lives of Americans with disabilities easier, especially from a digital standpoint.

The last time we discussed ADA, we focused on ADA-compliant websites. Just as important, however, is accessible color theory. Let’s dive in.

What is Color Theory?

GIF of the color wheel
GIF by 99designs

In general, color theory “refers to the standards and the concepts related to the use of color that can be applied in various types of design and art.” Remember the color wheel (red, yellow blue, primary colors, secondary colors, etc.)? If not, let’s take a trip down memory lane; it’s important to understand the three concepts of color and how to incorporate them into your accessible website:

  • Complementation refers to the way colors relate to one another. Colors on opposite ends of the color spectrum are more visually appealing, add balance to the eye and avoid straining.
  • Vibrancy is simply energy and emotion conveyed through color. It can also guide your audience to specific products, instructions or actions you want to highlight. For example, brighter colors can be used for graphics to generate excitement, while darker colors can be used for text when providing scholarly information.
  • Most relevant for accessible design, contrast creates visual interest by creating clear separation between items. Effective use of contrast reduces eye strain and focuses user attention by clearly dividing elements on a page. It’s typically best to use light colors for backgrounds and dark colors for text; effective contrast is one of the stark differences between an accessible design and one that is not.
Multiple examples of good and bad contrast in button images
Photo by Braze.com

These elements, used with adequate text ratio (which we’ll cover next), are crucial for accessibility.

Text Matters, Too

Those with complete or partial color blindness may have trouble reading your website without additional accommodations in place. When color cannot guide them to a certain button or action, accessible text can do the job. Some necessary considerations for creating accessible text:

  • For small or regular size text (12px or less) the contrast ratio between the text’s color and background color must be at least 4.5:1.
  • For large text, (18px text or 14px bold text) the contrast ratio between the text’s color and background color must be at least 3:1
  • Ensure your website’s text can be easily converted for screen readers or other assistive technologies.
    • Avoid using images rather than text – this allows users to adjust the size and color of the text as they see fit. 
    • Use colors with symbols (such as asterisks, colons or arrows) or words to indicate importance.
Stack of books on graphic design and fonts
Photo by Jeroen den Otter on UnSplash

Test, Test, Test

Wondering how your design elements — or entire website — stack up against ADA guidelines?? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of standards created for web developers to maintain web and mobile accessibility. Additionally, there are a number of resources available that can test the contrast of your website elements, including:

GIF showing the appropriate contrast ratio of text and background colors
GIF by Medium

Accessible is the Aesthetic

From a creative standpoint, proper use of color in web design can, of course, stimulate emotions, generate sales and make your website look pretty. However, making your content accessible to all, including those with visual impairments, is great design in itself. As marketers, our goal is always to reach as many prospects as possible. An aesthetically pleasing website that doesn’t function well for all users is not only exclusive, it’s bad marketing.

At Look Listen, all of the content we produce is ADA-compliant to ensure a memorable digital experience for everyone. Ready to audit your site? Get connected now.


Photo by Tirza Van Dijk on UnSplash

Neon sign that reads: Click & Collect
Marketing 501,

Get the Clicks: Do’s & Don’ts of Effective CTAs

Americans, on average, are exposed to roughly 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements per day. Yes, you read that right. In the age of information overload, good content marketing is rendered ineffective without a strong call to action (CTA). It’s important to capture your audience’s attention from the moment they lay eyes on your advertisement or email — but it’s even more important to inspire them to take action.

White chair in a black room
Marketing 501,

Do This, Not That: Stakeholder Interviews

There’s a lot that goes into the successful kickoff of a new project. Before the planning, however, comes the research. And while auditing documents and reviewing assets are crucial components of good research, stakeholder interviews are the gel that brings everything together. Below, some do’s and don’ts to guide your stakeholder interviews, research, planning and eventual project success.

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Marketing 501,

A Brand Strategist Goes Digital

We’re all digital, but many of us got started in life in an analog world. We don’t need to say “digital marketing,” because it’s almost all digital now anyway. But when it comes to a brand, the rules change. Brand strategy must encompass — you guessed it — the entire brand, digital marketing and all.

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