Notes on Codecademy “Learn Color Design”

After a brief overview of CSS browser compatibility concerns, which wrapped up Codecademy’s Learn Intermediate CSS curriculum, I looked at what remained under Codecademy’s HTML/CSS umbrella and started their Learn Color Design course. This is a less technical course more focused on art & design perspectives, so I knew it would take more effort for me to grasp all the concepts.

At least they started easy (for me) by going over HSL versus RGB for specifying color, and how HSL is easier to work with from a color design perspective. This is something I had learned from working with Pixelblaze and most of the concepts transfer easily. But then we moved quickly into concepts I had never encountered before, like designing color schemes. I liked the fact that the course material stayed with a same example page and changed colors around to illustrate monochromatic, complementary, analogous, and triadic color schemes. Keeping the content identical and changing just the color did help me see the effect somewhat, even if I am not familiar with the kind of vocabulary used. For example, I don’t know what it means for a color scheme to “create a sense of equality, vibrancy, and security in your designs”. These “Color Psychology” concepts are very foreign to my brain and will take time to absorb. Some of the vocabulary is new to me, too, using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. There was a quiz question “How is a shade of a color produced” and none of the possible answers made sense to my brain until I returned to course material and reviewed how the vocabulary is defined in this specific context.

This course had a gem of a quote that I wished more web designers took to heart:

Remember that most users skim websites! They are not reading every word and checking every menu—you need to guide the user to the most important content with good color choices.

Like the lecture, the practice exercise gave us a site that was mostly grayscale and had us add color to it. The instruction ends with an encouraging “Now our site is looking great!” but it really doesn’t. I have yet to master the subtleties in choosing colors and to compensate I intend to use color schemes built by others as much as I could. But this course gave me some foundation so I could appreciate those prebuilt color schemes. It also helped me appreciate BrandColors, a collection of color schemes associated with many brands we see in our everyday lives.

There was an optional resource that pointed to Adobe Color with the claim “you will learn to use Adobe Color” but when clicking the link, I was redirected straight to the color wheel tool. It’s not immediately obvious where I could find anything instructional to help me learn, I think that URL might be outdated. The same “dropped into a tool with no instructions” problem applied to another optional resource, a color tool by CloudFlare Design. (Not to be confused with the CloudFlare that handles DDoS attacks.)

After some experimentation with color, we are to put that theory into practice by applying color for UI. Again, the instruction materials used a sample page that started out mostly grayscale and we added colors as we go. UI-specific concepts are added, such as using colors for button hover and disabled states. An aside: I wish this class discussed the fact that hover is absent from touchscreens and how design should change in response. And speaking of wishes, an earlier wish was granted here: we finally have a discussion on color blindness and given ColorSafe as a tool to help. Another realization I had during this course is that we never really had a discussion on CSS pseudo-classes, which we use to style things like hover states. A quick web search found this MDN resource as a starting point for later research. For now, I will proceed to the navigation design course.

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