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Has anyone looked into the effectiveness of those red notification badges on the top navigation of websites like facebook and google plus? I know it's useful for Facebook, but I'm wondering if it's already thought of as banner blindness elsewhere.

Has anyone run actual tests on it or read an article by some usability authority?

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As you've asked for an article by a usability authority, I would like to quote a couple of paragraphs found in Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction:

Color Emphasis

Color emphasis suggests using strong contrast in value and chroma to focus the operator's attention on critical information. High chroma red alerts seem to aid faster response than yellow or yellow-orange if brightness is equal, but this also depends on background colors.

The following is a special case but still makes a lot of sense:

Code Economy: Sequencing

To code a large set of colors, use the spectral sequence: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Frnacine Frome, a human factors researcher shown that CAD/CAM viewers see a spectral order as a natural one and would select red, green, and blue as intuitive choices for the front, middle and back layers, respectively, when viewing a multi-layer display.

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