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I work on proposals that need to be formatted in question-response sections. Currently, we use different colors to distinguish between questions and responses. However, members of my team want to make the text of both questions and responses black and use a line to delineate question-response sections. I think this will make it harder to read and users won't be able to quickly look at the document and determine which are questions and which are responses.

What is the usability thinking on this? Are there any studies or information about one way being better than the other? (I googled and can't find anything).

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2 Answers 2

I think the answer is simply to use emphasis in typography. Indicate question and response either by bold label or by bold text. No colors required.

Example 1

Question
Cras mattis consectetur purus sit amet fermentum. Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper?

Answer
Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Aenean lacinia bibendum nulla sed consectetur. Sed posuere consectetur est at lobortis. Maecenas faucibus mollis interdum. Donec sed odio dui. Fusce dapibus, tellus ac cursus commodo, tortor mauris condimentum nibh, ut fermentum massa justo sit amet risus.

Example 2

Cras mattis consectetur purus sit amet fermentum. Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper?

Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Aenean lacinia bibendum nulla sed consectetur. Sed posuere consectetur est at lobortis. Maecenas faucibus mollis interdum. Donec sed odio dui. Fusce dapibus, tellus ac cursus commodo, tortor mauris condimentum nibh, ut fermentum massa justo sit amet risus.

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+1 Simple! 3210 –  msanford Mar 13 '12 at 20:21

A recent question, designing an "online / offline " status indicator and examples of existing ones with good practice may help you.

Using colour alone to distinguish state is never a good idea. While the above example focuses on web accessibility, it is not restricted to web design: what happens when you try to print that proposal on a black and white laserjet?

Here are two suggestions, but the possibilities for monochromatically conveying data are paradoxically endless.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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