Please Set Default Web Page Background Color

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, July 27, 2007 at 08:25 AM with 4 comments

Years ago I worked on a huge Web project for a huge company where the smallest problem became a crisis. We started getting reports of a “gray screen” problem for many users when they first went into the application. In the end, we found since these users were behind a proxy server, it took a few seconds for the first page to load, and as a result the browser was displaying a blank page in the default background color, which for Internet Explorer 4 was gray.

From that point in 1999 to today, I always override the default background color of the browser – which today for both IE and Firefox is white – to lime green. Why? It is a great way to test if a default background color is set, as well as if there are any images off even a pixel, as lime green tends to stand out.

Sometimes having lime green is annoying, but is necessary for howI work. For some reason, many, many Web designers and developers neglect to set the background color on a Web page. Why? I do not know. It’s not difficult to do. In CSS you can use the background-color property for the body selector and give it a hex value for white or whatever color you are using. And for the old schoolers the bgcolor attribute for the body tag, but let’s not go there.

So who’s guilty? Too many to mention here. One example is the much-hyped "new" design for the Chicago Tribune’s Web site. Here’s what the home page looks like to me:

screen shot of Chicago Tribune Web site

What I found interesting is the entire site is not background colorless. When I read Eric Zorn’s blog, it is green, but Maureen Ryan’s blog is white.

Some of you may say what is the big deal – just don’t set the background color to lime green, Mike. Not setting the background color is sloppy and incomplete coding, and when there is a change later that requires a color, then having missing colors will cause for more work. Realizing there is a default color helps in the design of sites for those who require a different color, namely those with a visual impairment.

I’ll stay on my soapbox for a bit more if anyone has any comments.

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