The following image is a design that is raising concern over accessibility, due to the presence of a light speckled background texture, and possibly the color contrast between text and background. I would like to know if there are any legitimate accessibility issues, using WCAG 2.0 to Level A as a rule of thumb. I can't find much about background textures, but the WCAG guidelines have the following:

1.4.3 The visual presentation of text and has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 against the background.

I think it goes without saying that this satisfies the color contrast requirement, but could there be any particular issue with the textured background? What's the general rule of thumb on textured backgrounds? I couldn't find anything on WCAG, presumably because it's a highly subjective "use common sense" kind of thing.

enter image description here

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    I must admit that I had a hard time realizing that your background is textured at all...
    – PlasmaHH
    May 15, 2014 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


There is actually research about this topic: http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/fulltext.cfm?uri=oe-6-4-81&id=63459

"Both text contrast and background contrast variation affect text readability. Background variation effects were only seen when the text contrast was low. Greater effects of background variation would be expected if larger background contrasts were used."

So i would advice to keep the contrast within the texture as low as possible, so the (negative) effect on the legibility is as small as possible. Besides that, I would always advice to define a background color that closely resembles the background texture as a fall-back, just in case the texture can't be displayed.

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    Yeah I think the OP is generally okay from a UX perspective. From a design perspective, there will be detractors.
    – Imperative
    May 15, 2014 at 9:37

Man, when you asked that question, I thought you meant a Web 1.x monstrosity.

I'm not sure there's a hard and fast rule on this but, generally speaking, that's what we would call light noise. My concern wouldn't be with the level of contrast, but with looking somewhat dated.

Basically, as soon as Apple declared skeuomorphism to be a thing of 2012 and thus banned from the hallowed halls of cool, the Internet followed. At this point in design history, using anything but a light, hard edged shadow is generally considered to be in poor taste. So on an absolutely subjective technicality, you risk your design being considered in poor taste by those who feel every site should look like you picked it up at the Apple Store.

Not that most visitors are going to care.

I think Samsung's Tizen OS site is probably a good example of using subtle noise in a tasteful way. I do note that it isn't used on the primary content DIV.

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    This answer is more about trends and taste and less about user experience.
    – Ruudt
    May 15, 2014 at 14:44
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    @Ruudt On the one hand I agree with you, but on the other hand, when we're doing UX work in the wild, we're often doing it working with designers. Knowing what the design perspective on an issue is and accounting for it has been the difference between my recommendations being accepted and rejected several times. I found this answer informative, even if it isn't strictly a UX answer.
    – Racheet
    May 15, 2014 at 15:38
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    Found this answer informative and helpful, for the record. Never heard of skeuomorphism before (I'm a web dev); also I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that Tizen site, but your point about looking outdated is very accurate...
    – HC_
    May 15, 2014 at 15:58
  • I would argue that, according to Jesse James Garrett's Elements of User Experience, design trends fit squarely into the surface layer. If a user interprets a website as being dated, it's going to reduce trust, which is going to reduce engagement. I also think it's a cop-out when UX designers assume they don't have to pay attention to things like trends or coding standards because it's outside the scope of a level one human interface design course, so perhaps I'm biased. Different beliefs, different destinations.
    – Imperative
    May 15, 2014 at 21:06
  • @Imperative: Interesting point. Didn't look at it that way before. Thnx!
    – Ruudt
    May 16, 2014 at 6:38

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