Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Has anyone else noticed a horrible trend spreading across the internet? It seems like websites are moving back to the 50's, when people didn't have color TVs. Grey is the new it color for fonts, icons, and backgrounds. Let us look at a few examples.

We'll start with Google, as Google is the primary perpetrator of this movement.

I used to love Google. I used to be totally Google gung-ho. But now they've made so many horrible time-wasting changes to their products that I've actually looked around to see what my options are for other email clients, online document editors, and blog readers. I am a lazy person, so I probably won't change, but if Google keeps getting worse, who knows?

Here is the standard Google search page:

Notice the complete and total lack of any sort of advanced options for searching. Where have they gone? Away. The word "Advanced" apparently takes up too much room on this screen and makes it look cluttered. Yes, that's right: I think that single word alone would tip this page from "clean" to "cluttered" in eight letters flat.

If you still want an advanced search, you can find it from the search results page:

Still can't see it? See that tiny little cog wheel in the upper right-hand corner? If you click on that, you will get the option to do an advanced search. It only took me several minutes and multiple Google searches to figure this out. Google, if you are trying to make your site more intuitive, you are failing big-time.

Now let's move on to Google Docs. I like that the icons are updated, sure, but honestly, how are you supposed to distinguish one thing from another?

Even the color options (text color, highlight color) are portrayed in black and white. How does this help anyone? People use colors as visual cues to determine what they are supposed to do and what symbols mean. Take away the color and you've removed one of humankind's primary sensory input mechanisms.

Moving on.

Gmail itself is still ok, more or less. It takes an extra click to switch between Mail and Contacts, but otherwise it's not bad.

Google Reader, on the other hand, is sad. The first sad thing about Reader is that you have to take three steps to even find it. First, you have to hover over the big Google icon in the upper left-hand corner of the Gmail page. This will make a drop down menu appear (which, by the way, is not fully visible "above the fold" on my netbook when using Firefox):

Then you have to go down and hover over the "More" option, which causes another menu to appear:

Then, at last, you can click on the Reader icon.

The link to Reader used to be directly on the Gmail page, and was a one-click deal. Then Google shunted it under the "More" link so it required an extra click, and now they've just buried it completely. At least Google has cleaned up the look of the email page though, eh?

Here is what the Reader page looks like:

Boring, boring, boring. White on white on white. Who designed this?

Unfortunately, other pages are starting to take Google's lead, and are washing out all color from their sites. Take, for example, this page of links from the website

I know those websites' icons are not all in grey.

Grey text is especially difficult to read, especially when paired with a light background. Check these out:

Norton's webpage
A TechCrunch article
and even FedEx

What is so great about grey? I will tell you: nothing. Please, people, bring back the color. I want to keep moving forward, not backward. The 50's are over; let them rest in peace. We don't need to go nuts like this webpage:

...but it might be nice to at least have a little color, you know? Something subtle, not too crazy. One webpage I like (love, actually), is

By the way, if you are a list person and own a smartphone, you would probably love the Out of Milk app; I use it every day, and it's one of the few apps I've actually upgraded to the Pro version. At any rate, the point is that their website looks nice. It has pleasant colors, it has enough contrast to be able to read the text, and it has a simple and clearly visible menu at the top and bottom of the page. Superb!

What is my conclusion? Boo to grey!

Seriously though, I do like websites which use color to help their readers. Removing color altogether is not helpful, and, in fact, it makes a website harder to use. Subtle coloring and wise use of colors is a good thing, and will make people feel more comfortable when visiting a website. We should not have to retrogress.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Penguin Cam

The Living Planet Aquarium has a live penguin cam! I guess I am a sucker for live cameras, and penguins are pretty darn cute. Check them out:

Camera Image

Also, unlike lions or certain other animals, I think the penguins are active during much of the day.

The official page is here.