On a MetaFilter that can be actually read when sending links to friends January 16, 2023 3:02 AM   Subscribe

I have a friend who teaches autistic children. I want to send her Zumbador's post on autism that can easily read. On a phone. Which is not the case when it comes up with yellow text on a dark blue background to an outsider. This raises all sorts of questions for me. Let me list them [more within] in an off the top of my head order.

How many members here access MetaFilter mostly via a smartphone rather than on a computer or laptop?

And of those who like me access the site on a phone, how many use the plain white background rather than the originall yellow on dark blue?

Because the latter just does not work on a phone. I send links to posts to friends all the time. And no one bothers to read them on a phone. Because it's too damn hard to read tiny mustard text on navy blue on a phone.

Why is this site baked in to defaulting to the yellow and blue? Because it's sound up to the minute web design? When most people are online on their phones? Oh, puh-leeze... /sarcasm

Seriously, I want to be able to send links to friends that can be read on a phone. I might as well be carving them in Akkadian on cuneiform clay tablets which I can FedEx to my friends after drying them in the microwave.

tldr: how about a phone friendly format which even cats and dogs can read for a change? You, my fellow members, what do you think? Ever try to send a friend a link to a post here? What was their reaction?

tldr: tldr: Mar bar 9622!
posted by y2karl to Bugs at 3:02 AM (94 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

So, on the front page, on the right sidebar, there is a toggle for dark or light mode; on mobile it's the down arrow that takes you to the bottom of the page where you can toggle that. BUT the toggle doesn't appear on individual pages. Which doesn't really matter once you've set it on the front page: it will continue light or dark for the rest of the site pages. That's obviously way too complicated to explain to a friend to whom you are sending a link, but what if there was that toggle also on post pages? If frimble thinks that wouldn't be a problem. That's my immediate thought, but maybe there are better ideas.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:11 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


My first thought was "I read MetaFilter in modern dark mode almost exclusively on my phone and it's no problem." But then I remembered that I strongly prefer to read it in Firefox with a bunch of Greasemonkey scripts that adjust the UI: https://greasyfork.org/en/scripts?q=Metafilter. I use 7 of the scripts on that page. So yeah, I guess I struggle with this too and I've been here for years. Not to mention the impression it makes on someone who has never visited MeFi before. Unfortunately I don't have any solutions to suggest.
posted by Tehhund at 4:07 AM on January 16 [5 favorites]


I have been on this site for 20 years and have always used the traditional color scheme, including on mobile. It has never been hard for me to read. Yellow and white on blue has been a default color scheme on, e.g., Powerpoint, forever because it is actually easier to read in some settings than black on white or (shudder) white on black. I immediately click away from websites that use white on black because I find it impossible to read.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:08 AM on January 16 [19 favorites]


I read on mobile in modern dark, and it’s - fine? I have my annoyances with the interface on mobile but the color scheme isn’t one of them. I’ve sent links to friends and they’ve read them without mentioning the color scheme as a problem. (Which doesn’t mean they’re not silently grumbling about it, of course.)

That said, the overall question of “can we modernize how this site looks and works on mobile, since that’s our world now” is definitely worth attention along with “are our colors/contrasts doing what they need to do for visual accessibility?” If that’s not already on the Steering Committee to-do list, it should be. And part of that should include an assessment of whether our overall design, including the different colored subsites and the specific colors we use, is working.
posted by Stacey at 4:53 AM on January 16 [6 favorites]


Isn't it white on blue, with links in yellow? I wouldn't even call the colour the links render in on Modern theme yellow - I think it'd be nicer if it were yellow though. But then, I use classic theme on both browser and (much more often) mobile and have no issue with it. Modern on mobile looks ugly to me (I really hate the link colour choice), but is still perfectly useable.
posted by Dysk at 5:53 AM on January 16 [9 favorites]


I read the site in color mode (which, agreed, has white text, not yellow) on mobile and find it extremely easy to read. At night, I find myself checking metafilter much more than other sites because the sort of built-in dark mode is so easy on the eyes, but I like it in the day too.

tiny [not]mustard text

I do have iffy vision and a lot of eye fatigue though so I make sure my text is not tiny, on metafilter or any other site.

THAT SAID, I've tried out firefox's reader view sometimes and found that it only works on some threads and not others. Often it just shows the post itself but not the comments, though on some threads it does. I haven't looked into it enough to see if there's a pattern.
posted by trig at 6:09 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I agree that no matter a user's aesthetic preferences, the front page should default to colors that are the most accessible, when a link sent is a link clicked.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:25 AM on January 16 [6 favorites]


I am currently reading and typing this on a phone (intentionally, I mostly use MeFi on my iPad). If you want to complain about the central fact of MetaFilter’s visual identity for more than two decades it might more constructive to frame it in the context of a true thing (the design of MetaFilter is likely to be alien to a first time reader and that makes it hard to introduce new users) and not a false thing (it is impossible to read MetaFilter on a phone).
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:59 AM on January 16 [11 favorites]


Because it's sound up to the minute web design? When most people are online on their phones? Oh, puh-leeze...

I'm a person who reads the site with the plain white background. I feel it's easier to read. The last time this site had a major web design update was when Matt was still here which was a while ago. The site currently has I think four different major CSS templates and they don't play nice with one another. This was part of the issue with the Fundraising banner being such a pain to get sorted out. This is what happens when you have a site that grows organically and people get strongly attached to their preferred way of browsing. And you have no actual web designer. frimble can do design but they are primarily someone who handles coding, are part-time, and are working with a lot of deferred maintenance projects already - Matt always enjoyed messing with the design here as a side hobby.

So, point taken, there are ways to put accessibility more front and center when introducing people to the site. We still run off of a skeleton crew and I know the SC is setting up priorities for the next bit of time after assessing how fundraising went. And in the meantime if you are someone who has skills in this area, the SC would, I'm certain, like to hear from you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:48 AM on January 16 [17 favorites]


My eyes are also very happy with the default blue background on my phone, for what it's worth, whereas a lot of the internet is now very difficult for me to engage with (low font-weights, low contrast, excessively small or excessively large text, permanent content-obscuring floating buttons, animations, autoplaying videos and so on). Metafilter is not without its issues on mobile - for instance, on my phone, reading is absolutely fine, but including a link in a reply is so challenging that I no longer even try - but it wouldn't have occurred to me that the colour scheme was one of them.

But that's me! And the fact that it works for me (or rather, for my eyes and brain) in no way negates the fact that it clearly doesn't work for you.

FWIW I work in tech with an increasing slant towards accessibility (read: learning all the time), and have been surprised to realise over the last few years how wildly different people's accessibility needs are, and how unaware most people are that they actually have accessibility needs, or that their own response to a given interface is not universal. Definitely including me.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:56 AM on January 16 [8 favorites]


How many members here access MetaFilter mostly via a smartphone rather than on a computer or laptop?

Always laptop, never cell phone.
posted by Rash at 8:04 AM on January 16 [5 favorites]


I use my cell phone almost all the time, but I also have my settings on modern dark, so I don't see the defaults. Whatever our default is should be the most accessible, with other options toggleable.
posted by blueberry monster at 9:00 AM on January 16


As a data point, I always use the professional white background because it's the easiest to read, and whenever I arrive here without a cookie set I am what the fuck is this unreadable shit. Then I immediately log in and my eyes aren't screaming at me any more.

Again, just a data point.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:57 AM on January 16 [7 favorites]


+1 to everything in seanmpuckett's comment above.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:04 PM on January 16

...This is what happens when you have a site that grows organically and people get strongly attached to their preferred way of browsing. And you have no actual web designer. frimble can do design but they are primarily someone who handles coding, are part-time, and are working with a lot of deferred maintenance projects already - Matt always enjoyed messing with the design here as a side hobby.
And now I am thinking of this. I stand corrected and edified. I have no further complaints. Well, you know, for the moment.
posted by y2karl at 1:09 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


I read the site on phone, PC or laptop, use the blue background, and have never felt it was even slightly difficult to read. I find it equally easy on all devices. Your description of the readability issues is so different from my own experience that I assumed at first you must have chosen some weird display option most people don't use.

I know white backgrounds are common, but aren't they actually harder on the eyes? All that glare. I'm perfectly happy with the current default Metafilter colors, but I agree that it would probably be a good idea to find out somehow which color scheme is most accessible to most people and make that the default. I'd be interested to know which most people actually find most readable.
posted by Redstart at 1:45 PM on January 16 [9 favorites]


For what little it's worth, I read in the standard blue on multiple devices, but I do find it easier to read on my phone in "modern dark" whereas on desktop/laptop the "classic" version suits me better.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:25 PM on January 16


I note it is possible for web page CSS to reference the prefers-color-scheme media query to choose among light/dark schemes. This will even switch between day/night modes on devices that auto-switch like those built with iOS. This is probably where you should start your work for best practices modern accessibility. Forcing dark or light on your users is a bit basic in 2023.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:00 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


oops
posted by y2karl at 4:41 PM on January 16


Wait, there's a plain white background? I thought we just had the professional one...
posted by 7segment at 5:02 PM on January 16


I agree with those who think the ideal is to have the site default to whatever is the most accessible for people who are not logged in. I will continue to use Modern Dark across several devices. I also think it would be reasonable to reduce the number of theme options to make development more manageable. As long as my preferred theme is not cut, of course!
posted by snofoam at 5:04 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Wow, I just checked out all the options to remind myself what they looked like and the white ones (especially Plain) are super overwhelmingly glaringly white! Way too bright for me. Classic is by far my favorite.
posted by Redstart at 6:07 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


...all shitposting aside, this site is trying to attract new members. Link sharing is a great mechanism by which to effect this. If the default style has the effect of driving people away, then its continuing use (at least qua default) is directly at odds with that goal.

I hate to look to reddit for an example of making things not suck, but, a while back they launched an ill-advised and generally indefensibly awful site redesign. However, they preserved access to the "traditional" look via a subdomain, old.reddit.com. Metafilter could do something similar, with (say) pwb.metafilter.com rendering the white version of the blue, pwb.ask.metafilter.com for the green, and so on accordingly. Similar subs could accommodate the other styles, or even one respecting prefers-color-scheme per seanmpuckett's suggestion. People looking to share links could at least specify the subdomain, or (if we were to get really ambitious) link targets could be inferred from that user's own settings.

I don't know how much technical work would be involved there. But I think it's well-worth investigating if the alternative is having a website that's so actively hostile to first-time viewers as to give established members pause at sharing it out to begin with.
posted by 7segment at 6:54 PM on January 16


I feel like I’m losing my mind. Who sees yellow text anywhere? Metafilter is blue background with white text and green links, right? That’s what I see whether I’m logged in or not.

I’m visually impaired and MeFi’s color scheme is more accessible to me than any other site I’ve been on. It provides the contrast I need without requiring me to turn my screen on full blaring brightness. It may vary for others but declaring it the worst option seems narrow-minded.

Also, there’s nothing about the color scheme that makes it harder to read on a phone than a computer, in my experience. I send links and comments to my friends all the time, and they always read them, whether on a phone or computer. None of them have ever complained about the color scheme.

That’s not to say it isn’t a problem for others. But there’s some counter examples for you.
posted by brook horse at 7:22 PM on January 16 [17 favorites]


Maybe it isn't a readability issue. It definitely is a credibility issue, and the question is whether we care about that.

The current visual defaults make it clear that this is... let's say an unusual place that does not follow prevailing norms. That's great for some things. It suits our culture. It's bad for use cases like "linking a professional contact to a comment here" or "convincing a friend that this is a valid information source."

Frankly, if I wasn't a mefite and a friend linked me here, I'd be like "Wow, okay, first off, this person has some iffy information literacy, I should explain to them that they can't trust weird old unmaintained sites like this..." Which, if that's the reaction we're going for, great. But maybe it shouldn't be.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:49 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


trig: THAT SAID, I've tried out firefox's reader view sometimes and found that it only works on some threads and not others. Often it just shows the post itself but not the comments, though on some threads it does. I haven't looked into it enough to see if there's a pattern.

I've noticed this too with saving posts to Matter! Mefi Blue posts are saved with both the post and comments intact. AskMefi posts only save the question, which is weird given that the comments are the bigger value there.
posted by creatrixtiara at 9:32 PM on January 16


It definitely is a credibility issue

This will end well…
posted by staggernation at 10:50 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


That scarifying nugget of history aside, though, my main problem with the site on a phone is not colors but sizes. Changing the text size (on Safari, at least) doesn’t work at all; and the comment box in which I’m typing right now can either fit on the screen and be barely big enough to read, or be zoomed in to a readable size and have to scroll horizontally to see the whole thing.
posted by staggernation at 11:07 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


...all shitposting aside, this site is trying to attract new members. Link sharing is a great mechanism by which to effect this. If the default style has the effect of driving people away, then its continuing use (at least qua default) is directly at odds with that goal.

That's a big if, though. Is there any evidence that it is affecting usability? So far as have one person's anecdote (from which it isn't clear that it's a usability issue even - their friends might just not like mefi or the colour scheme).
posted by Dysk at 12:29 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


It definitely is a credibility issue

This will end well…


That scarifying nugget of history aside
.

by Jove that was a masterpiece of classic blue socio-tech question to
The gauntlet ®©™


Has the longboat pulled up yet?
posted by drezdn at 5:55 PM on April 3, 2007.

That is a end well worth it's weight in what it becomes rather then what is.
posted by clavdivs at 2:29 AM on January 17


Just another datapoint: I read more on my phone, I see white text with green links, I don’t have difficulty reading it. I don’t remember if I selected something special to make it render this way but I see the same view whether I’m logged in or not so, my guess is I did not.
posted by eirias at 2:49 AM on January 17


The simplest answer is to default to light mode if you're not logged in.
posted by signal at 4:02 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


🙂❤️🙂❤️🙂❤️🙂

I'm just happy someone wants to share my post.

❤️🙂❤️🙂❤️🙂❤️
posted by Zumbador at 4:15 AM on January 17 [33 favorites]


Finally: post is definitely a "if I douse everyone with vinegar rather than honey, surely someone will respond positively to me".

My vision has deteriorated very fast very recently. Because both parents had macular degeneration, I was terrified and went to an ophthalmologist. The good news was there was no sign I had macular degeneration. The bad news was I have cataracts. Eventually, after the necessary surgery, all will be well but for now I can't see shit. That has driven my frustration and fear. I must give a shout out here to not_on_display for their very kind and reassuring advice on cataract surgery and to Zumbador for sending me a cleaned up and augmented version of her post to send to my friend.
posted by y2karl at 4:31 AM on January 17 [15 favorites]


,,,,cleaned up and augmented in plain white to be sure. In a week I will vent and plea for a longer time to edit prematurely posted comments, which is another major vexation. I just came within seconds of accidentally reassigning Z's gender while feverishly finishing my comment. I would have never heard the end of that.
posted by y2karl at 4:48 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I know a tiny bit about web accessibility, though I'm certain that we have people around here that are specialists. There are existing, detailed guidelines. It is true that MeFi's all-text format with clear headers is actually a huge accessibility boon as it can all be parsed by screen readers - a major issue for most sites that require alt-text, video transcription, etc. This promotional tool rates MeFi as "semi-compliant." Anyway, ADA compliance [PDF] is definitely something to put on the list if a redesign is ever in the works.
posted by Miko at 5:08 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


This probably won't be taken well, but if you find white backgrounds painful, turn your screen brightness down. You should be able to look at a white screen and not feel pain. General goal for graphics design work is 100-120 cd/m2 which is just a little brighter than a well lit piece of white paper on an office desk. Bonus: you'll save electricity.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:30 AM on January 17


Yeah unfortunately because of vision issues if I turn screen brightness down enough to not hurt I can’t see shit because of contrast. Trust me, it’s an eternal battle.
posted by brook horse at 6:55 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


I must give a shout out here to not_on_display for their very kind and reassuring advice on cataract surgery

He was happy to talk with you. He had to postpone his second surgery because of Covid, but he's getting it done TODAY, in a few hours. Anyone who wants to send him well wishes, please DM him.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:27 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


I mean, yes, I remember the "professional white background" thread, and I'm aware we've been using it for ages as shorthand for "clueless asshole who doesn't understand why our site is Different," and whatever, fuck it, I honestly think anildash was right. Not because Metafilter needs to look "professional" to be valid as a community, but because we're not just a community of people who dick around online together, we're also one of the best resources in the English-speaking world on some topics, and going out of our way to hide that is weird.

Like, obviously we're not going to change this, because we've decided collectively that we don't care. (And maybe we shouldn't! Maybe asserting our independence from larger internet trends is more important than helping people communicate credibly and effectively with their doctor or whatever!) But, I dunno, it seems worth pointing out once a decade or so.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:23 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


Anyone who wants to send him well wishes, please DM him.

Done with extreme gratitude.

Also, what nebulawindphone said.
posted by y2karl at 9:32 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone: "Maybe asserting our independence from larger internet trends is more important than helping people communicate credibly and effectively with their doctor or whatever"

Well, if you take into account that the internet trends we've maintained our independence from over the past couple of decades include the things that make most of the current internet 99% garbage, I'd say yeah, it's important.

I personally come to metafilter for the independence from trends, not to help it be a 'resource'. If it is a resource and that helps people and helps the site stay afloat, great! But the independence is very much the killer app, IMO.

Not that the color scheme in itself is accomplishing this, but I'd think a minute before belittling the impulse to NOT be like the rest of the internet.
posted by signal at 11:00 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


I read either on an iPhone or on a 27" display. So you know, land of contrasts, &c. -- literally, considering how awesome the Modern Dark Mode is!

But I do agree: improving accessibility would be really good. Maybe a string appended to the URL that loads an alternate appearance would work? But alas, I myself cannot put the bell on the cat because I don't know how. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 11:35 AM on January 17


I'm not sure I agree that the white background communicates credibility. I think it connotes maybe... Business savvy? Self-awareness? Which to me are not the same thing as credibility. If anything, I tend to associate wacky web 1.0 sites that have terrible colors and fonts with credibility, and (to a more limited extent) attractive, white-background pages with SEO content farm junk. (For what it's worth, I use metafilter with the white background, but for me it's about usability, not site identity.)
posted by dusty potato at 2:19 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I remember the "professional white background" thread, and I'm aware we've been using it for ages as shorthand for "clueless asshole who doesn't understand why our site is Different

Like to see a link to that thread; I thought the 'professional' aspect of the white background was about reading MeFi at work, incognito -- a godsend for me, when I first learned of that setting.
posted by Rash at 2:55 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


While we're here, can we just all agree that Zumbador is hecking awesome? Fantastic post.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:11 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Like to see a link to that thread

staggernation obliquely linked to it above, but here’s anildash’s original MeTa.
posted by zamboni at 3:35 PM on January 17


How many members here access MetaFilter mostly via a smartphone rather than on a computer or laptop?

Usually an iPhone SE, in other words, a baby-size phone.

And of those who like me access the site on a phone, how many use the plain white background rather than the originall yellow on dark blue?

WHITE on blue. Always.

The professional white background is for desk people who are skiving off work. It doesn't actually make the site look more reputable.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:54 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


The first thing I did as soon as I signed up was to change my preferences to a white background. I’m a big fan of tradition, so I won’t suggest changing anything, but goodness the default design is hideous.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:16 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Is there no way for to have metafilter inherit the user's light/dark preferences? For example, if user's browser is set for dark mode then display modern dark and if no dark mode flag then display modern?

While we're at it, perhaps a purpose designed high contrast scheme could also be added to help visually impaired folks? It never hurts to have such an option.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 5:57 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I use the site with the classic scheme both on phone and laptop. I hate white backgrounds with the burning passion of a thousand suns and always select a dark mode when offered. I find the front page and meta very readable. Ask a smidge less but vastly superior to white. All sites have white text with yellow unvisted links and a very pale yellowish grey visited links.
posted by Mitheral at 6:28 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I'm still stubbornly using the classic theme, almost always on mobile. It also allows for changing font and font size which does not appear to be an option on modern dark. I just tried to switch but I like being able to see more text at once.
posted by lookoutbelow at 9:55 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


modern dark 4 lyfe
posted by lazaruslong at 3:57 AM on January 18


How come people think black-on-white text is more credible? That is how all the blog spam looks. White-on-(blue|green|gray) is excellent countersignalling, apart from also looking gorgeous.

As to readability – I find the current colour scheme easier to read than most of the web, both on desktop and mobile. But I do all my computing with white text on dark backgrounds, and this does seem to be an ever decreasing minority preference...
posted by trotz dem alten drachen at 4:08 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I love the old internet, am as nostalgic as the next 50-something for the 1990s web, and really like long-term consistency... but I also wish it was possible (financially and socially) to completely redesign the site to bring it into the 2020s, or at least the 2010s, with all the benefits that would bring.

I see people saying that lots of the modern web is bad... yes, but there are many improvements, and we should take advantage of those. That doesn't mean using all the bad stuff too.

If one of MeFi's hopes is to attract new, diverse users it needs to look less like a surviving relic of the early 2000s. But it feels like, unfortunately, this cannot happen until there are no current users who object. And we will never be in that position.
posted by fabius at 6:15 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


I'm a young person (by the standards of this site), and I find it pretty much as easy to use as anything else out there. I really don't know what a "modern" metafilter would entail.

If we're just posting pie-in-the-sky fantasies, I think a revamp of the top-bar navigation to make it flatter and more consistent would be useful. Why isn't "recent comments" more prominent, why doesn't it exist on some subsites, etc.
posted by sagc at 6:50 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


In my ideal Metatopia, there were would be an easy drop down menu somewhere on every page, be it desktop or mobile, that easily let's people flip between two different styles. No more of this having to log into preferences and switch, just make it a handy drop down, probably at the top of every page.

I do think having a basic black text on a white background would be best as the default style. It's probably the least offensive style choice to the general public and thus a good way to welcome new comers.

I would also like monthly cookie deliveries from MeFi, since I'm thinking of utopia.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


How come people think black-on-white text is more credible?

Because I can have it up at work and literally no one thinks I'm doing something non-worky.
posted by cooker girl at 9:20 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


If one of MeFi's hopes is to attract new, diverse users it needs to look less like a surviving relic of the early 2000s.

I really don't think that's a given? (If anything, fashions tend to work on a 20-year cycle. Vinyl and cassette walkmans and high-waisted jeans and teenagers going offline are all things. Young people behind attracted to earnest, old-school, non-corporate stuff is a thing. Hell, having a strong, unique visual identity is a thing. Which things pull most people in, which drive them away, which don't make any difference? I don't think we know.)

Anyway, the most important thing is, if cookies are on offer then let's make sure our international members don't get left out (hi)
posted by trig at 9:44 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


On many web pages on mobile (e.g. news articles) there is an option in my iPhone to "show reader view." This sets the website to follow my preferences, including background color and text size, which makes many articles more accessible for me to read.

I don't think this works on Metafilter. Would there be a way to make it work?
posted by mai at 10:41 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


One option could be to include a URL argument to optionally override the default theme, allowing people sharing a page to choose how it will appear to those using their link. E.g. a URL looking something like https://metatalk.metafilter.com/26245/On-a-MetaFilter-that-can-be-actually-read-when-sending-links-to-friends?theme=bright , where appending the "?theme=bright" has the effect of presenting the page with the "bright" theme instead of the default one for non-logged-in users. The advantage here is that a person sharing a link presumably knows their audience better than any default setting the community might choose. The disadvantage is this would require some developer effort, and I don't know how much.
posted by biogeo at 2:35 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


mai, I do see the “Reader Available” indication when loading an individual post page on MeFi/AskMe/MeTa, and the “Show Reader” option in the menu, on iPhone Safari. It doesn’t work on the homepages, I guess because they’re not really structured like a “readable” article. Is that not what you’re seeing?
posted by staggernation at 4:39 PM on January 18


Ah, maybe I spoke too soon—the Reader view is available but doesn’t include the comments, which makes it sort of worthless. So I guess that would be the thing to fix!
posted by staggernation at 4:45 PM on January 18


I think by design Reader View doesn’t show comments and other “extraneous” stuff. That just doesn’t work well on a site like metafilter.
posted by snofoam at 5:32 PM on January 18


snofoam: it shows comments for the Blue but not for AskMefi, from what I can tell
posted by creatrixtiara at 8:46 PM on January 18


I think the reader views in different browsers (and apps like Pocket and Matter) might not all function in exactly the same way - though I mean it when I say "think", I don't know for a fact.

Doing a quick check now specifically with Firefox's reader view on both desktop and Android, this Metatalk thread itself displays with the post but no comments; this AskMe thread shows post but no comments; and this MeFi thread shows comments but no post. Interestingly, this FanFare thread shows both post and comments -- and a weird rendition of the comment box. (Note that the formatting is ... not great and kind of confusing.)

Firefox's reader view seems to use some not-very-well documented points-based algorithm (some other site linked to this as the code) determined largely by html tags and structure. It seems intentionally designed to not include comments (for example, there's a comment in the linked code that says 'Trash nodes that look cruddy (like ones with the class name "comment", etc)') but there are also some overriding factors.

Clearly the different subsites here are using inconsistent HTML layouts; maybe someone with more time could take a look at what it is that FanFare is doing differently than the other sites, and assess whether the other sites could use the same layout. FF is the newest subsite, so maybe it was written with more modern best practices in mind - or maybe it's just coincidence.

If users with different browsers or reader apps could check how things look on their end, we could see if there's likely to be a relatively easy fix (i.e. the same fix for all reader view software) or if it's likely to require more complicated changes to accommodate all the different views.
posted by trig at 4:18 AM on January 19


MetaFilter: nodes that look cruddy
posted by staggernation at 6:30 AM on January 19


Can't we just change the "default" theme to Plain?

If you have an account here and want to set it back you can do it in three clicks (Preferences -> Classic -> Save).

If members really can't cope with that much inconvenience in their lives, maybe a script could automatically set the preference to Classic for anyone with an account who hasn't picked one. Someone being sent a link who doesn't have an account would never see the Classic scheme. Someone logged in with an existing account would never see the Plain one.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:35 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]


Not that this is dispositive, but as appealing as TheophileEscargot's suggestion is from the standpoint of compromise, it occurs to me that some site argot ("the blue," "the green") would become even more obscure without the visual cue. Of course, this stuff can change too and people would probably eventually get the meaning even if they didn't understand the history.
posted by eirias at 10:23 AM on January 19


If we're going to set a default that isn't Classic, why not Modern? It looks better (both in the sense of "I prefer it" and in the sense of "it looks similar to other websites that people won't think it's sketchy") than any of the other themes, AND it preserves the blue/green/gray/whatever-color-IRL-is-supposed-to-be schema.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:39 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I would like to see a screenshot of this experience with yellow text, and more details of the browser/device/etc. Perhaps this is something we can debug?

I feel like when friends don't read a Metafilter post, it's because they don't want to do as much reading as they often involve. It's not ever a legibility issue.
posted by Pitachu at 11:35 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I don't have very much to add to this dicussion, but my personal anecdata FWIW: I've never liked reading light text on a dark background on this site or any other (which is why I never use dark mode on my mobile devices), so I went to PWB as soon as the Modern theme became the default, on both desktop and mobile. That said, I wouldn't mind black text on a light-tinged/pastel color background to preserve the blue/green/gray subsite colors.

Linking stuff in comments is slightly clunkier than it is on desktop, but my only real complaint is that the B / I / Link buttons aren't bigger to make them easier to finger-press without zooming in.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:28 PM on January 19


Can't we just change the "default" theme to Plain?

If we're going to set a default that isn't Classic, why not Modern?

Plain or Classic are not good options, since they're non-responsive, but perhaps this is just confusion about what the styles are called.

To review, as far as I know, the options are:

Modern (probably what most folks mean by Professional White Background)
Modern Dark
Classic Standard
Classic Mobile
Plain Standard
Plain Mobile

From the FAQ:
Your Site Preferences let you choose Modern, Classic, or Plain theme. Modern theme has a white background, but colored backgrounds are available by clicking Dark Mode on the front page. Classic theme has colored backgrounds and Plain theme is white background variant of Classic.

Modern theme is responsive, that is, it will automatically resize on various devices. In Classic or Plain theme, you can choose to switch between standard and mobile versions of the site—for information about switching between mobile and standard views, see this FAQ entry.
posted by zamboni at 2:20 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


So far we seem to have a few assertions that some users prefer a black-on-white theme. It seems like at least as many users prefer what we have, though. Before we rush into changing the default - do we actually know that black-on-white actually is substantially better for accessibility? Or are we just taking that as read because it's in the post we're discussing? Because there is definitely a lot of the rest of the Web out there that defaults to light-on-dark, exec is the reverse is more in vogue in Web design currently.

Like, let's check all the wheels rather than just greasing the squeaky one and moving on.
posted by Dysk at 5:55 PM on January 19 [5 favorites]


Fascinating. It's been years since I saw the site in anything other than white text on a black background. I more or less forgot that was a choice. (I have no significant opinion about what the default should be.)
posted by eotvos at 9:39 PM on January 19


White on blue with yellow links. Probably mostly on a tablet these days though I certainly look at it on my phone too. I’m so tired of staring into a flashlight all the time on most sites, I’d never switch to black on white.
posted by egypturnash at 3:11 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


some site argot ("the blue," "the green") would become even more obscure without the visual cue

Could be done with headers or banners to preserve the argot.

do we actually know that black-on-white actually is substantially better for accessibility?

Contrast and scale are more important than color.
posted by Miko at 4:07 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]


Thanks Miko! So using black and white would be marginally better, but there is no advantage to black on white contra white on black? (But the current defaults almost certainly meet the standard if not enhanced contrast ratio requirements?)

Am I reading that right?
posted by Dysk at 8:37 PM on January 20



there is no advantage to black on white contra white on black?

I haven't looked carefully through mikos linked article, this might be addressed there, but there's a difference between the legibility of a few large words (say, in a heading) and paragraphs of body copy.

The advice I usually see is that small, dense text is more difficult to read with light text on a darker background, than vice versa.
posted by Zumbador at 9:00 PM on January 20


Yeah, that's the 3:1 required contrast ratio for large text, and 4.5:1 for normal text. Not 100% what the default mefi colour scheme works out to, but based on their examples I would guess it at least meets the basic 4.5:1 requirement if not the stricter enhanced requirement, but I would love to hear from someone who can actually confirm that.
posted by Dysk at 9:21 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


pop metafilter into this site and it will give you contrast ratios and stuff

on modern dark, there's a lot of low contrast issues.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:32 AM on January 21


It looks like the link text colour against the background is the issue that comes up hundreds of times.
posted by Dysk at 2:37 AM on January 21


yeah, there's a few - the links, titles, headings, more. the main text is good, which is nice.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:12 AM on January 21




It's possible these days for users to set a preference for light or dark mode at the operating system level, and it's possible for websites to follow that preference automatically, without the visitor having to do anything. This can be done with the prefers-color-scheme media query, which is widely supported now in current browsers.

There is no actual need for Mefi to debate light vs dark and take a side on this.
posted by automatronic at 7:41 AM on January 21


I'm autistic, and MetaFilter's background colour scheme is uniquely valuable to me for keeping track of what site I'm on. I remember when things I've read have been on MetaFilter because I remember the colour of the background that I've read it on. It also makes the nicknames "on the Blue" and "on the Green" meaningful. Please do not change it!
posted by heatherlogan at 8:47 AM on January 21 [6 favorites]


I would like to see a screenshot of this experience with yellow text, and more details of the browser/device/etc. Perhaps this is something we can debug?

I doubt it, since in a later comment y2karl mentioned having cataracts. Reduction in perceived color contrast is a symptom of cataracts. Basically cataracts are a very specific case where it's not just about total contrast, but about contrast within a reduced color gamut. The more an individual cataract has yellowed or browned, the worse this problem will be. I don't know if any common accessibility tools allow you to specify "cataract yellowing" as a reduced contrast testing option, but such a thing would be useful in this case. Otherwise maybe go get some yellow glasses made?

In my own case I didn't know how yellow everything had turned until I had my first cataract surgery. Everything was VERY BLUE in the post-surgical eye compared to what I'd been seeing before (and still saw with the other eye). All text was hard to read with cataracts blurring the middle of my visual field, but it was worst when trying to sort through my junk email folder in Apple's standard Mail app. On macOS (but weirdly not on iOS or iPadOS) any email identified as junk will be displayed in the list using a sort of gold/mustard color, and that color was incredibly difficult to read against a (yellowed) white background. I would imagine that seeing the standard color scheme as yellow-on-blue is just a variation of the problem I had with the Mail app. But I use the modern light theme here so I didn't experience the problem the same way y2karl does/did. Otherwise I might have complained months ago.
posted by fedward at 3:14 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]


Being an ancient artifact myself, I still use the classic. I used professional white background when I was at work to hide my constantly open Metafilter tab. I find Classic to be much easier on my poor eyes. (Yes, I have cataracts too.) And here is my voice crying lonely in the wilderness; I read MF on a 30" screen and do not have a cellphone. I thoroughly enjoy the difference between MF and modern websites, especially the ones with small elegant gray sanserif type on a white background.

And I find Zumbador's comments to be very insightful and kind. (Thanks, Z)
posted by a humble nudibranch at 4:07 PM on January 21 [6 favorites]


Returning to the original issue, I also vote for keeping it “professional” (black-on-white) when linking to the site from outside it. I’ve never used the classic colors from the day I signed up, because it is too visually jarring for me personally.

In fact, I had entirely forgotten that logged out users see the site on Classic mode, which now makes me less keen to send a link to any non-users. If, somehow, a post could have a Share button that automatically appends a specific theme to the URL (as mentioned above), I vote that it not be classic.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:41 PM on January 21


(Logged out users see the Modern Dark theme, not Classic!)
posted by Dysk at 1:13 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


I just checked on incognito mobile and it’s Classic for me? I also have to be quick at work on desktop in changing to the light theme because my screen is suddenly bright blue.
posted by lesser weasel at 3:05 AM on January 22


Edit: Never mind, I misunderstood the “Classic theme” at the bottom of the page. Regardless, I would rather have a shared link not use the dark/blue (green) theme.
posted by lesser weasel at 3:08 AM on January 22


Reading these comments I'm wondering, do people here generally think that having non-pictorial screen elements fall anywhere outside of the grayscale gamut detracts from effective communication? Reddit, for example, displays user-supplied links in blue, and that's about it.

To me the ability to display text in a variety of colors was part of the magic of computer-mediated communication. But I guess we must sacrifice some things on the altar of efficiency and inoffensiveness.
posted by tigrrrlily at 11:23 AM on January 23


But I guess we must sacrifice some things on the altar of efficiency and inoffensiveness basic accessibility.
posted by Television Name at 9:05 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


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