Archive for April, 2010

First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions (Volume I)

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The importance of creating a favorable first impression cannot be overstated.  As our brains receive data through the five senses, as well as “intuition” and “gut feelings”, an involuntary response is set in motion.

If we observe something our brain responds to as undesirable, an emotional reaction to that stimulus takes place.  This holds true for the other senses as well.  Hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling something undesirable all tend to influence our emotional state according to previous programming.

This holds true in any environment.  You can imagine how undesirable stimulus would impact you adversely whether at a restaurant, at a hospital, at a supermarket, in an office, or at a tire shop.

Conversely, you can imagine what desirable stimulus would impact you in any environment.

Initially, one may garner exposure through a multitude of vehicles, whether a billboard, a sign on a building, circulars, newspaper ads, radio ads, television commercials, your website, or by word of mouth.

Therefore, particular attention should be given to the medium(s) whereby you invest the major portion of your effort at gaining exposure.  The dividends received should be commensurate with the effort expended.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these mediums.

BILLBOARDS
Since cost versus return is a major consideration in deciding where to invest your advertising budget, one must analyze the overall concept of utilizing a billboard to gain an accurate assessment.  Billboards are a notoriously costly medium through which a business gains exposure.   Because of this,  a business must be mindful of the placement and size of any billboards incorporated into its advertising campaign.

Billboards located on major thoroughfares such as freeways and primary streets come at a higher premium because of the amount of traffic passing that location.  For instance, we’ve all seen billboards stating the number of vehicles that pass that location on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.  We’ve also experienced viewing a billboard numerous times as opposed to noticing one for the first time.  Why would this be?  A number of factors could account for this phenomenon.  Was it too small?  Was it not eye-catching?  Ideally, a display would be visually distinctive while conveying the message for which it was intended; keeping in mind there is very limited time to take in the necessary information such as business name, address, phone number, products, services, and any incentives.

Other details such as company logo, colors, lighting, and even possibly humor, can have a significant impact on the viewer’s psychological impression.  In conclusion, one must carefully approach outdoor advertising with due diligence.

To be continued…

Tradeshow season at a close …

Monday, April 26th, 2010

As the first part of this tradeshow season comes to an end, we would like to thank all those customers and potential customers for spending time with us and supporting their local tire dealer association. If you have not done so yet, we encourage you all to get involved with your local association. It is a great way to network and find new and exciting products in the industry. Membership with most associations also includes benefits of technician training and many other services. If you are interested in what association is in your area, please contact us at (888) 449-8473 and we will be happy to put you in touch with them.  So thank you all again, and we hope to see you and many new faces next year!

Determining Color Readability and Viability

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

If you are a developer (like me), have you ever wondered how to determine if the color set you are using on your web page or in your software is a good choice?  After all, there are lots of things to consider.  Color makes what you present “eye catching”, and can boost the enthusiasm of your target audience.  It can attract attention to an important area, or help distinguish regions of information.

On the downside, the wrong color choices can make your information displeasing, hard to read, and actually discourage readers.  Also, colors which may look really good, can be near impossible to distinguish by individuals with varying degrees of colorblindness.

So, how do we make sure the colors we have chosen do not do the exact opposite of what we want?

The answer, at least for text, is some math.  There are 2 methods to test a color combination, the first being the older AERT algorithms proposed by W3C, and the second being the Luminosity Contrast Ration adopted by WCAG 2.0.

AERT Suggested Algorithm

The AERT suggested algorithm is a set of 2 formulas used to derive a Brightness value and Color Difference value.  These two values can be used to determine the viability of the color and to ensure the colors chosen are both “pleasing”, as well as distinguishable regardless of ability or inability to see any given color.  The formulas are not perfect, but are very simple to use, and produce good results.

Before using the formulas, break down the colors into their red, blue, and green decimal values.  There are a number of ways to do this, including several online tools.  Then just plug your numbers in, and check the results.  For these formulas, we will use FG for foreground colors and BG for background colors.

Brightness Difference Formula:
FGResult = (( FGred x 299) + (FGgreen x 587) + (FGblue x 114)) / 1000
BGResult = ((BGred x 299) + (BGgreen x 587) + (BGblue x 114)) / 1000
BrightResult = AbsoluteValue(FGResult – BGResult)

If BrightResult is greater than 125, a good brightness difference has been achieved.

Color Difference Formula:
RedResult = AbsoluteValue(FGred – BGred)
GreenResult = AbsoluteValue(FGred – BGred)
BlueResult = AbsoluteValue(FGred – BGred)
DifferenceResult = RedResult + GreenResult + BlueResult

If DifferenceResult is greater than 500, a good color difference has been achieved.

If both contrast and color difference return good values, then the color choices are good ones.

If the end users are allowed to pick colors, these formulas can be used to determine the user has made good choices, or warn them if they make poor choices.

Luminosity Contrast Ratio

The Luminosity Contrast Ration algorithm has been adopted by WCAG 2.0.  Success Criterion 1.4.3 requires that the visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ration of at least 4.5:1.  This algorithm is a little more complicated to use, however, it produces much more accurate results.

Just like the AERT formulas, begin by converting the colors into their red, blue, and green decimal values.  Then, just plug in your numbers into the formulas.

FGLUred = (FGred / 255)^2.2
FGLUgreen = (FGgreen / 255)^2.2
FGLUblue = (FGblue / 255)^2.2
FGLuminosity = (FGLUred x .2126) + (FGLUgreen x .7152) + (FGLUblue x .0722) + (.05)
BGLUred = (BGred / 255)^2.2
BGLUgreen = (BGgreen / 255)^2.2
BGLUblue = (BGblue / 255)^2.2
BGLuminosity = (BGLUred x .2126) + (FGLUgreen x .7152) + (FGLUblue x .0722) + (.05)

If FGLuminosity > BGLuminosity,

Contrast Ratio = FGLuminosity / BGLuminosity

Otherwise,

Contrast Ratio = BGLuminosity / FGLuminosity

If the resulting Contrast Ratio is greater than 4.5 then a good Luminosity Contrast has been achieved.

Using the Algorithms

Often either method by itself can verify the color choices being considered, however, often both methods are used in conjunction to ensure the best possible and most accurate results.  Verifying both values from the AERT method and testing results from the Luminosity Contrast Ratio algorithm will verify that the colors will be readable as well as good to look at.

Reference Material:
http://www.w3.org/TR/2005/WD-WCAG20-20051123/appendixA.html#luminosity-contrastdef
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
http://juicystudio.com/article/luminosity-contrast-ratio-main-colour-contrast-analyser.php
http://tools.cactusflower.org/analyzer/
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/301869/how-to-find-good-looking-font-color-if-background-color-is-known

Backups… are they really that important?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

If you were to turn back the hands of time and bring the clock back to the late 80’s and early 90’s, we would agree a backup consisted in most cases of a small thin plastic square which was inserted into an equally thin slot, which after a few minutes would allow you to save data.  These plastic squares of storage, also known as floppy’s, are now but extinct and have been replaced with devices which hold hundreds, thousands, or even millions of files.  Now, what’s the point of the remembering the golden years of the floppy?  Simply because it reminds us that backing up and saving our data was important then, and it’s even more important today.  With technology taking bigger and bigger leaps every year, our dependency on computers grow with every leap.  This means our data becomes more of  a priceless possession than just a simple file saved on a hard drive.  If your server were to crash, if a thief broke in and stole your computer, if a fire broke out in the middle of the night, is your precious data backed up?  Next time you talk to a friendly TCS support member, ask them which backup options will work best for you.  Don’t be a victim of data loss. Backup your data today!