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I have read contradictory opinions on this topics. In general it is thought that yellow is an intellectual color. The problem is that most of the "studies" seem very pseudo-scientific.

Some point out that yellow is cheerful and catches attention. And may (?) prompt someone to focus more.

So my hypothesis is that if I wanted to cater to a technical readership, I could use yellows to catch their attention. But catch it in a location to prompt readership of our technical materials.

From a non-scientific point of view. My thought is that we are conditioned in school and modern society that we highlight what is important. In high school and college we highlight our books and notes. And now at our workplaces we are accustomed to using highlighters to show what parts of reports are important. Again this is theory at this point, hence why I am asking if there are any reliable studies about this.

The intent is to make the experience easier for a technical reader to have this thought process

  1. Land on page
  2. Attention drawn to studies and reports
  3. Narrow down the possible interactions based on intent
  4. Click on the appropriate descriptively named link
  5. Read

In my first prototype, I have designed the menu below for a tablet.


[image cutoff]

The point was to immediately pull their attention to the technical links.

However there are articles such as this discuss that there are too many variables in the studies that are not adequately addressed. And that colors may in fact not be as important as we think.

But in addition to just pulling in there attention, I am wondering if there are studies that have proven that the readership actually increases. I ask because yellow is usually cited as men's least favorite color. Most of our audience is men. So if they yellow is seen as "too bright" I am wondering if that might deter them.

Designers have told me that they do not like my design here from an aesthetics point of view. But I care more about, "how fast can I push the reader to where they need to go." So I don't want them to sit there and admire the design, I just need to push them through the user flow.

I suppose that this question itself will need to improve. And maybe I am not asking the right questions. So I would appreciate feedback in the comments section that is related to color psychology and also catering to technical readership.

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It might be more around the hypothesis that text is more readable on yellow, rather than white paper (white paper producing more of a glare). That's one of the suggestions as to why legal pads are predominantly yellow rather than white (as discussed here), but I've never seen any conclusive proof of this being the case (although I've heard dyslexic users often say they prefer the less harsh yellow paper rather than white, but that's quite subjective). –  JonW Feb 4 '14 at 9:51
Could you provide citations for some of these studies? I'd be interested in reading them. –  Jessica Yang Feb 19 '14 at 18:45
Bright yellow as in your image doesn't look technical at all to me. Soften it a bit (like a legal notepad) and it'll look much more technical IMO. –  Nathan MacInnes Feb 19 '14 at 23:18
@JessicaYang I was asking this question to see if there are clinical studies about this. Because all that I found on the topic sounded very pseudo-scientific. –  JGallardo Feb 19 '14 at 23:32
@JGallardo The post began with "I have heard contradictory studies on this. In general it is thought that yellow is an intellectual color", which suggests that studies do exist on yellow being an "intellectual" color - I am genuinely curious about what studies you managed to find, even if they contradicted one another. –  Jessica Yang Feb 20 '14 at 3:30

1 Answer 1

I'm extremely skeptical of yellow being an "intellectual color" and people immediately associating it with technical information, and 15 minutes in various databases produced nothing on the color yellow being perceived as anything other than happy and bright (although green and red are studied with some frequency) - I'll update this answer if I run into any research.

You mention leading technically-inclined readers towards technical information by giving them visual cues...to the fact that the information behind the links is technical? By giving the links a yellow background? Honestly, that's not something you can assume your users are going to get.

More importantly, how are you going to apply this system of "visual cues" to other parts of the website? If you color-coded content consistently all across the website, that might help with making the information structure of the website more visible. But if you just highlight some links in yellow, with no other color cueing going on, chances are people will just be drawn to the fact that the icons have a different background color from everything else on the page.

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You should reread the question. Your "answer" comes off with a harsh tone and you attack points that I never attempted to make. The essence was "pull their attention to the technical links" which you yourself wrote that you agree with. And that is what I cared about. Furthermore, you say that you spent an entire 15 minutes searching databases, which ones? a Google search with color yellow is intellectual pulls up a lot of pages of results, though most sound too mystical. This is why I was asking about clinical studies. –  JGallardo Feb 19 '14 at 23:30
@JGallardo Fair. I guess I was too concerned with the hypothetical scenario of "yellow as content cue" actually being used as a key way of communicating the nature of content, which strikes me as rather arbitrary and obscure. Apologies for tone - I'll try to soften up in the future, New Age stuff just makes me bristly ;) I looked in ScienceDirect, APA PsycNet (only titles/abstracts), Taylor & Francis Online and maybe one more I can't remember right now. –  Jessica Yang Feb 20 '14 at 3:41

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