Can the use of different colours help usability?

by Rhodri Buttrick on 18 July 2011

As mentioned in previous blogs, my dyslexia/dyspraxia means the only way I can do my exams is by using speech recognition. Speech recognition software is trained specifically by each user and the hardware also has to be personalised. Changing the microphone or sound card can make the difference between good and terrible accuracy. For this reason, I’m allowed to use my own laptop in exams and there are rules put in place to prevent any suspicion of cheating. One of these regulations requires all of my documents to be taken off the computer prior to the exam – this led to one of my biggest computer catastrophes yet.

Pre-empting issues, I decided to move all of my work from the past year onto an external hard drive. To make sure the data was safe if something went wrong with the transfer, I decided to “copy” rather than “cut it”. This way, if anything did go wrong,  I would still have a copy of all my work safe. After the files had finished copying across to the hard drive, I was left with one version on the hard drive and one on the computer.  All I had to do now was delete the version on the computer.

Unfortunately, the window from the hard drive and the window from the laptop are exactly the same colour and this caused me to get the two confused. Without thinking I deleted my documents folder stored on my external hard drive, leaving a copy on the laptop. I then looked at the window on my laptop and thought,  “How peculiar, I could have sworn I deleted you!” So, I delete this version as well! And zap! All of my essays and notes disappeared. Disaster.

Thankfully, I was able to retrieve all my work but it made me think - if only different windows from different sources on computers had different colours, then there would be far less likelihood of me making this sort of stupid mistake. So, can the use of different colours help usability? Definitely. After all, we use this method for many other day to day items, such as plug wiring for instance, to make sure we can easily find what we need to without making mistakes!

Image thanks to BBC GCSE bitesize

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