I'm working on a data product, and there is a requirement to categorise individual cells. This is currently achieved by changing the colour of the text within that cell, for example, black = real data, blue = estimate data (see image below).

Color coded data

I don't really like the aesthetics of this and also it wouldn't help users that are colour blind, so I have been looking at alternative options. One way I thought of achieving this is through a coloured dot next to the value, with a tooltip that shows on hover to help colour blind users (shown below). However the stakeholders didn't really like this option.

Can anyone help me to find a solution that is both accessible, but also aesthetically pleasing?

Coloured dot next to value

  • I'm assuming the real data should appear more prominent than the estimated data?
    – Janet
    Jan 26, 2017 at 17:15
  • Not necessarily. The data should carry equal importance - also there are more data types other than real/estimate, these were just two examples.
    – Jeffrey
    Jan 26, 2017 at 17:54
  • How many different categories would you expect to see in a given table?
    – Janet
    Jan 26, 2017 at 19:00
  • At the minute there are just 4. There is the possibility that it could grow to more, but it wouldn't be many extra.
    – Jeffrey
    Jan 26, 2017 at 21:54

2 Answers 2


Designing for colorblind users doesn't mean that you are not allowed to use colors. It rather means that the colors e.g. should have a big difference in their brightness:

enter image description here

Source: https://designshack.net/articles/accessibility/tips-for-designing-for-colorblind-users/

Here is another example: Bad (pale, unsaturated colors) vs. Good (vivid colors) vs. Best (including different textures)

enter image description here

enter image description here

Source (with detailed explanations): http://jfly.iam.u-tokyo.ac.jp/color/

I would suggest that you use background-colors instead of font-colors. This way there is more space for the color, making it easier to compare the values (and I think it will look better), and making it easier to apply textures.


Use color to emphasise the meaning but don't rely only on it. For the solution try to start without color and then push color to help. This is your image in black and white (and greys):

enter image description here

You could take different approaches to make some elements stand over the others:

  • Font-weight
  • Field background (lightness first, then saturation)
  • Be explicit by either writing the word "Estimate", "E" or a symbol next to each field with a legend below. Similar to how required inputs have an asterisk in the label and below it says * Required.

This is an example without color:

enter image description here

As a side note I think it is better to align the text to the center in this case.

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