I have a digital signage app that displays flight information. In shows data in rows like you see at pretty much every airport in the world. Text is white on black, row background alternates essentially gray/black.

Currently when changes occur the data is simply updated on the next refresh (seconds). It might be nice to indicate that "something has changed" or "this element has changed" recently. A previous version of did this by changing numbers and text to a yellow color.

Is yellow text the most appropriate for "this has changed, but it's not necessarily a bad thing"?

I first considered animation but I think the consensus is that it would be distracting. Also to be considered is that people will not be constantly staring at the screen and an animated change might not be noticed.

  • Do you have room for additional elements, or are you restricted to the existing layout?
    – kastark
    Nov 16, 2012 at 17:10
  • Could you provide more information about the way the app handles the transition of data through the three(?) states: (1) old data (2) new data (3) no longer new data but not the same as the value in state 1. I'm asking because the system's behavior will determine the number of rows highlighted as 'new' at any time. The number of 'new' rows will affect your choice of highlight scheme. Nov 16, 2012 at 17:56
  • @user1757436 Right now all of the rows are update en masse and no previous state is retained on the client. I only display applicable flights within a certain window of time so row are constantly rolling on and off (at no less than 1 min intervals though).
    – bobtheowl2
    Nov 16, 2012 at 19:12
  • @dhmholley yes, a little in terms of room for smaller graphical elements, but in terms of more text it is getting close.
    – bobtheowl2
    Nov 16, 2012 at 19:14

3 Answers 3


Normally I would say yes, yellow is appropriate. Users are generally familiar with yellow as a highlight colour and they likely will have encountered the Yellow Fade Technique.

That said, actual flight information screens tend to use text colour to highlight flight status: "Cancelled" in red, "Delayed" in yellow, etc. In the context of flight information, users might get alarmed.

The screens in Vancouver Airport, for example, use a dark grey for the default row background and "highlight" updates by changing the background to black (or near-black).

  • That is exactly why I have stayed away from "negative" colors so far. Curiously how long does that row highlighted effect stay around when updated?
    – bobtheowl2
    Nov 16, 2012 at 19:02
  • I'm not sure. Sorry. I expect the rows stay highlighted until the next refresh but I don't know how long that is.
    – scronide
    Nov 16, 2012 at 19:20

Animation may be exactly the thing you need. Airport screens are refreshed constantly and you have to rescan the whole table to get the difference (it's even worse: the rows may shift down). But in your case you may just slightly shake the changed row for some time to attract the users attention.

  • I've tried two animations so far, a row flip (rotate around x axis on center of row) and a row bounce type animation (like dropping a ball with gravity, except this pushes it right ~30% width then it bounces against the left side until coming to a stop). I think it would definitely get attention for that row, but I'm worried about not maintaining the "this row has changed recently" feel after that animation stops. I wouldn't want a fair majority of the rows bouncing indefinitely either. So there is a probably a trade-off somewhere in terms of time if animation is used.
    – bobtheowl2
    Nov 16, 2012 at 19:07
  • 1
    I don't think you should keep the animation forever nor worry about something left unheeded. I think it's okey for user to fully rescan the table periodically since things may change significantly. I just imagine a row slightly wiggle around horizontal axis (top become closer and bottom become farther and vice versa) it should look good. Nov 16, 2012 at 19:17

Can you change the background color? White text on black background is the highest contrast, so any other text color would not stick out as much as the white text. However, since the black and gray backgrounds are so subdued, a bright colored background would highlight the row and draw more attention. I don't know if you have any associated brand colors, but I am picturing a bright blue background, and you could change the text to black if necessary.

Since the text is not shown until the whole screen refreshes, I don't think an animation would be necessary or appropriate. The idea of the whole screen refreshing and showing new information is typical in airports so an effective use of highlighting would be understood by the average user.

  • 1
    yes, we could change the background color on the newly updated row. We'd nice to keep the "normal" background colors darker though, since in tests light colored background were bothersome due to the environment they are in. Also want to minimize any strobing type behavior. But changing one run shouldn't cause too much.
    – bobtheowl2
    Nov 19, 2012 at 16:28

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