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OS X Yosemite: Screen Bleed-Through for Images Impairs Perception

In Yosemite, images now bleed through the user interface in Safari, as shown.

Click for larger image.

Image bleeding through user interface (Safari, OS X Yosemite)

The neutral gray surround is discolored, interfering with perceptual evaluation of an image. Moreover, it feels unstable, because the amount of “bleed” changes with scrolling the image; the colors and intensity continually vary, which means that perception of color and density varies continually.

If you’ve ever seen a display about to fail, it can look like this smeared mess—it gave me quite a 'start' when I first saw it, thinking my 4K display had gone bad. Good interface design should not be surprising, or feel unstable or broken. Feels like core rot to me.

The user interface changes on OS X Yosemite feel gratuitous and arbitrary; they do not improve the usability in any way I can detect; rather I find that elements are rather merged in feel—less discrete, less solid. If the changes make the cut of true visual and usability improvements, why does every OS X release redo it all?

As John Siracusa at ArsTechnica writes (spot on):

Though I’ve tiptoed around it thus far, the friction point in Yosemite’s new visual design is its pervasive use of transparency. (Technically, “translucency” is more accurate, but please indulge my idiomatic usage.) Allowing what’s behind to influence the appearance of what’s in front is problematic in a couple of ways. From a purely aesthetic perspective, transparency is unpredictable. Designers can decide which aspects of the background will influence the foreground image, but they can’t control the content of that background. Will its contribution make the final image more pleasing, or will things turn ugly?

In terms of usability, transparency risks impairing readability and recognition. Colors bleeding through from other content can undermine the intended contrast between text and its background. Symbols and shading meant to subdivide an interface can be sabotaged by the influence of unrelated background images. The content as designed by the application developer is the signal; any background content that shows through is noise.

... Inevitably, I find myself searching for a reason. Why is it important for me to see any aspect of what’s behind the front-most active window? Why risk reducing both the usability and attractiveness of the UI? To what end?

... As much as I may support any of these lines of reasoning, my tolerance for any instance of impaired readability due to background “leakage” is very low.

Ditto. OS X Yosemite is gratuitous. But even that is not right, it is damaging to usability in too many scenarios. And MPG might summarize this more bluntly: “one designers’s maniacal ego trip is another person’s visual pollution”. It reminds MPG of the godawful shadow and outline fonts in the original Mac. They didn’t last, and for good reason. This “vibrancy” (bleeding) is the same sort of dreck when it is applied willy-nilly. The idea tha blurred colors are somehow less distracting because there is no detail includes a tacit and ignorant presumptuous of what content might be present, and what might matter to the user.

On the other hand, I completely support the “Yosemite” approach as applied to women’s clothing, at least for young attractive women. :; But please top only and not for hairy men.

I accept that software needs to evolve, but I also feel that a sense of stability and continuity should be given due deference: as another example, window zoom dispenses with 30 years of behavior and now goes to full screen mode instead of zooming. And it also blanks out my 2nd display entirely, rendering it useless. How can it be good design to destroy use of a 2nd display, I ask. Only by option-clicking can the window zoom as before. Well, at least that one is manageable; I can unlearn longstanding habit. But I cannot turn off my vision and not see color smearing, just as I cannot close my ears.

I am a photographer with strong color discrimination (vision), and a stable and neutral visual environment matters to me (and to many who view my images).

A mitigation

So I went hunting, and found this control in Preferences => Accessibility.

So there is still a faint color cast, but it is much less disturbing. Still, it impairs the ability to evaluate an image against a neutral surround in Safari is what I am after (color perception is very much dependent on surrounding colors). Google Chrome does not suffer from this issue, at least not yet.

Reduced Transparency
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