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Visual cues that appear very clearly defined on one monitor can appear so differently on a different monitor that they no longer work well. For instance, borders that are clear, or distinctions in text color, or whether text in a highlighting color is comfortably readible.

When designing something visual, you want it to be clear to everyone, but you can't go out and buy every monitor.

What methods have been developed to avoid these troubles, given that you cannot test on more than a small sample of monitors and you can probably only develop and design the interface on at most two that you may not get to choose (the ones your company gives you)?

P.S. Feel free to answer outside the constraints of the question if it addresses the underlying problem in a budget way, e.g. maybe not the two monitors your company gave you per se, etc....

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I think this question will get better answers in – Izhaki Jan 14 '14 at 0:30
many monitors' color control can be adjusted so the highlights don't show up, some will also save the mappings – ratchet freak Jan 14 '14 at 9:46

I interpret your question as: given the best and worst monitors, what can I do to convey my visual cues effectively on all of them?

For visual cues, color is not the only distinction: shape, outline, position and context are all important to identify the semantics of an element or cue.

When coloring is important, it is in most cases the contrast that's most important. The contrast between a background and foreground, text and highlight, button and icon. Sufficient contrast will be visible enough on all monitors, regardless of their settings. So, if for example you can barely distinguish text from its highlighting color on your monitor, then you probably should increase the contrast between the two. Otherwise you're probably fine.

And finally, for UI elements the exact color is of very low importance. Usually interfaces use only the most basic colors to convey information, such as red for 'error' and green for 'go'. If you stick to the basic colors, they will still be distinguishable on bad monitors.

16 basic colors

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+1 but last sentence not quite true. Have had the misfortune of a monitor that displayed all colors pretty well if they were background colors, but were hardly distinguishable when used for text, even the basic colors. Especially irritating for a developer that relies on code highlighting. – Marjan Venema Jan 14 '14 at 7:16

Have at least one good monitor and one crappy one.

Beyond that, just make sure key elements are not rendered with a border-line method where they may disappear on some screens.

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or just mis-configure one of them, you'd be amazed how far you can adjust a monitor's color control and the effect on what you see – ratchet freak Jan 14 '14 at 9:48

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