Subjective and Objective User Behavior Disparity: Towards Balanced Visual Design and Color Adjustment

Sensors (Basel). 2021 Dec 20;21(24):8502. doi: 10.3390/s21248502.


Interactive environments create endless possibilities for the design of websites, games, online platforms, and mobile applications. Their visual aspects and functional characteristics influence the user experience. Depending on the project, the purpose of the environment can be oriented toward marketing targets, user experience, or accessibility. Often, these conflicting aspects should be integrated within a single project, and a search for trade-offs is needed. One of these conflicts involves a disparity in user behavior concerning declared preferences and real observed activity in terms of visual attention. Taking into account accessibility guidelines (WCAG) further complicates the problem. In our study, we focused on the analysis of color combinations and their contrast in terms of user-friendliness; visual intensity, which is important for attracting user attention; and recommendations from the Web Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). We took up the challenge to reduce the disparity between user preferences and WCAG contrast, on one hand, and user natural behavior registered with an eye-tracker, on the other. However, we left the choice of what is more important-human conscious reaction or objective user behavior results-to the designer. The former corresponds to user-friendliness, while the latter, visual intensity, is consistent with marketing expectations. The results show that the ranking of visual objects characterized by different levels of contrast differs when considering the perspectives of user experience, commercial goals, and objective recording. We also propose an interactive tool with the possibility of assigning weights to each criterion to generate a ranking of objects.

Keywords: WCAG; accessibility; color contrast; website design.