A few weeks ago, I gave up.

Many years back, I set the settings on Windows to display white text on a black background. My eyes were hurting from staring at white backgrounds for long stretches of time, so I took matters into my own hands.

Well, it was a futile effort.

Interface developers seldom, if ever, take into consideration a user’s custom settings. How do I know? I know from all the times I’ve encountered my default white text blanched out by an interface’s white background. Or an interface’s black text camouflaged with my black background.

A few weeks ago, I installed a piece of software I’ve found to be so invaluable, I was willing to change my behavior to accommodate it. No, I wasn’t happy that I was forced to make the change, but given the number of quirks I’ve faced because of my custom settings, I figured I may as well stop fighting.

The software in question is Mp3Tag. Here’s a screenshot of the file system listing with the settings on white text/black background:

[Mp3Tag with white background]

Now here it is with black text/white background:

[Mp3Tag with black background]

I don’t develop Windows software, so I’m not sure how much trouble it would be to specify the color of the foreground, especially since setting the color of the background is doable.

Here’s what the beginning installation screen of Apache 2.0 looks like:

[Apache installation screen with white background]

If you set your text to white, it looks like this:

[Apache installation screen with black background]

Now, I do know how to develop a website, and it’s not difficult at all to set a background color with your foreground color. But it doesn’t seem to occur to very many web developers to do so.

Check out the search box of APNIC, the lookup service for IP address originating from Asia:

[APNIC with white background]

The colored text is a nice shade, but that beauty can be lost since the developers at APNIC didn’t set a background color for the text box. What happens when your system settings is set to a dark background?

[APNIC with black background]

Monster.com is the worst offender. Although the front-end of the site’s résumé editing tool is easy to use, it’s a different story when custom settings are used.

Without custom settings:

[Monster.com with white background]

With custom settings:

[Monster.com with black background]

I like the freedom of setting the colors of my operating system in such a way to reduce the strain on my eyes, but majority rules, I guess. It’s tough exercising that freedom when developers don’t provide the option.

I won’t rag on software developers since I don’t know the nuances of the code to facilitate foreground and background colors. (Although, how hard is it?) But I will rag on web site designers who aren’t vigilant enough to include a color statement alongside a background-color statement in their CSS. It should be an automatic reflex to set color when you set background-color. Why isn’t it?

I’m not asking developers to use a white text/black background. Go ahead and use black-on-white, if you prefer. I just ask that you be diligent. When you set one, set the other as well.