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Monday 28 October 2013

Google Ads and #FFF7ED.. what's wrong with this picture?

So here's a long-standing source of irritation that I decided to have a poke at today.. Google Ads in search results. Now, obviously this is one of the main ways that Google makes money and frankly it's part of the deal in them giving you all those search results for free.

Let's take a look at a typical results page, for the term data recovery software (this is traditionally one of the most expensive search terms to advertise for).

The first three results are advertisements, they are displayed on a very pale pink background with a hex colour of #FFF7ED (compared to #FFFFFF for pure white). Can you see them?

The answer seems to be.. some people can, and some people can't. Now, I am colour blind.. but sometimes I can see the background, but other times it appears to be completely invisible. It really seems to depend on the monitor that I'm using.. it does seem that quite a lot of displays are very poor at displaying that particular colour.

Frankly this sort of thing is poor design, with very similar contrast levels between the two areas that are meant to be distinguishable. The coloured area is about 97% of the brightness of the white area, which isn't enough to make it clear in my opinion.

Just in case you can't see the ads, here's the same screenshot with a histogram equalise function applied.

Here are the two colours side-by-side. You might find that moving your head from side-to-side will make the colour more apparent, but on some monitors it makes no difference.

The pink background is on the left. Can you see it? On some monitors I can, but on others I can't. So, let's take a photo of one of the monitors that seems to be struggling.

Can you see the difference now? Almost definitely not, because the slight red cast has vanished. And it isn't just one monitor either, this seems to be common among many different monitors that I have looked at. By and large, all these monitors are set to their default settings, but some fiddling around can usually make the background more apparent.. usually at the cost of some weird colours elsewhere.

There is of course a security issue here.. many of these ads lead are rather misleading. Do a search for download skype (or any other free download) and check the ads that appear (some of which are on the top rather than the side). Do you really want to click those?

No, you probably don't.. but there's a danger with more obscure software that you could end up downloading something that you don't want because the ads are not always easily distinguishable from the real search results. And I have certainly noticed an uptick in crapware installations for people who thought they were downloading an official version of something, only to discover that they are not.

And yes, I do know that the ads shows "Ads related to.." above them, but how many ads are there? One? Two? Three? If you can't see the colour then it is hard to tell.

Has something changed? Has Google deliberately chosen a colour that is hard to make out on some monitors? Or do some monitors (and these are mostly mainstream Dell units) have very poor colour fidelity? What do people thing?

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