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The new Outlook.com

Low-contrast colors in Outlook.com Beta Calendar

The color scheme used by the new Outlook.com Beta Calendar - particularly on the Month view, which this feedback is referring to - is a huge step backwards in user-friendliness and accessible design.

I make extensive use of categories in my calendar, with each category using a different color. With the pre-beta Outlook.com Calendar, the calendar appointments on the Month view were displayed as a solid, high-contrast, rectangular block of bold color with the title in bold text inside the block. The colors and styling closely matched those used in the Outlook 2016 desktop client, which made it very easy to visually identify the appointments when switching between desktop and web clients, and the boldness of the colors made it easy to identify the different categories, and to see how "busy" or full the current month was looking, at a glance.

However, with the new Beta Calendar in Outlook.com, the page looks washed out, bland, dull and dreary. There's hardly any color anywhere on the page. Depending on the category used by each appointment, most appointments now just consist of very light-colored, low-contrast text with no rectangular block of color in the background at all. The text itself has some color, but again it's so light that it's nearly impossible to tell the text colors apart from each other.

Some of the appointments do have a rectangular block of color behind the text, but the block color is now super light and difficult to see, rather than nice and bold as before.

As a result, it's now very difficult to tell the categories apart from each other, especially for the appointments which no longer show a rectangular block of color behind the appointment title (which is the majority of them).

This also means the degree of contrast between text and background color is very poor, which is a big problem for those of us suffering from visual impairments, such as cataracts, which directly hinder the ability to read low-contrast text. As a result, the new calendar fails badly in the area of Accessible Design. It should be noted that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 states that text should have a contrast ratio at least 4.5:1. The new Beta Calendar utterly and completely fails this requirement, and therefore shows a total disregard for Microsoft's visually-impaired users - including paying customers who have purchased Office 365.

Microsoft's web designers would do well to read and learn from this article on the importance of good contrast for web text:
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/low-contrast/

At the very least, Microsoft should allow the user to choose the color scheme used by the calendar appointments, by offering a choice between the old, bold color scheme - as used by Outlook 2016 on the desktop - and the newer, washed-out, low-contrast scheme used by the current beta. Then customers can decide for themseleves which they prefer.

I should also point out that the calendar month widget shown in the left-hand sidebar of the calendar page has also lost the background coloring that previously was shown to highlight the days of the current month. Now, the widget uses the same background coloring for all the days in the widget, including the last few days of the previous month and the first few days of the next month, which is not helpful.

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23 comments

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  • Gail Tivendale commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I recently had to change to Google calendar as the print out of my work week was practically unreadable. Why have a print out that looks so different from the original? Please fix!

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Agreed - day events highlighted with a block of colour were super easy to see at a glance - the coloured text just doesn't highlight events in the same way. Definitely a backward step, please revert to colour blocks!

  • JL Jeffers commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Excellent comments and we totally agree. Not sure what the rationale was, but missed this. As a working tool, this calendar went backward. Please return to your customers what we had. Thank you.

  • edna_zo@hotmail.com commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Really hate the new look of the calendar. The colors offered are horrible, the grayish background on past dates bothers me. Can't scroll up or down the calendar. Really miss the color blocks too.

  • Patti Polimou commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    All of a sudden when I opened my Outlook calendar the design of all my entries was changed and I was having a hard time trying to find important events.
    The old version I was able to make entries with each category using a different color, which made it very easy to visually identify events, the boldness of the colors made it easy to identify the different categories.
    Now the text itself has some color, but again it's so light that it's nearly impossible to tell the text colors apart from each other.
    I think Microsoft should allow the user to choose the color scheme used for the calendar events, by offering a choice between the old, bold color scheme (as used by Outlook 2016 on the desktop) and the newer, washed-out, low-contrast scheme used by the current beta. They shouldn't have gone and changed everyone to beta without giving them a choice.
    When doing some research I found that in Gmail, I can have calendar entries use the bold color scheme like I'm used to, so I've gone over to Gmail and set up an account.
    To those Outlook users who feel the same way I do about the changes made to their calendar entries, go over to Gmail and use their calendar, at least they give you choice to choose a color scheme for each of your entries. (similar to old version of Outlook calendar)

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Absolutely agree!! Also the new colours are gradually changing to just one colour for every entry. Can I change this?
    Also your so-called help is useless - never seems to have an answer.

  • lynnemetty@comcast.net commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Agee with these comments. Please bring back the bright colors or at least give us the option. Can't imagine what you were thinking.

  • Xun commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Agreed. Please bring back high contrast color in calendar.

  • Lucinda commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I wish I could vote for this 1000 times. The new look of the calendar is very hard to read. I also really depended on the blocks of colors to highlight when I had things that needed to be taken care of.

    I also miss the dividing lines between the day blocks on the monthly view. Also I don't think the exception to repeating events is particularly relevant.

  • Betty Ruppel commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Who in the world thought removing color coding was a good idea? The CEO's grandson? Bring back HIGH CONTRAST COLOR CODING!!!

  • Ann Kern commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    My calendar just changed to the format you're mentioning above. I hate it! Everything I do is color-code....bills, meetings, doctor appts for me and each child...all color-coded. Now some have color - some don't and the whole monthly calendar looks blah!

    Time to find a new calendar!

  • Todd Cioffi commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    100% agree.

    Everyone else I work with uses Google calendar, but I valiantly hang on to using MS calendar (going back to Live days, now Outlook) primarily BECAUSE of the easy readability of the color blocks.

    The new format makes colors almost pointless (unless using Dark mode which I'm not a fan of it for other reasons, but at least the colors are distinguishable) - which I use heavily to organize my day and my life (I travel all over the world for work and need to be able to quickly figure out what has/hasn't been planned yet for flights, hotels, venues, etc.

    Prior format should be available as a settings choice, at minimum.

    With this feature removed (which showed up unannounced and suddenly for me in the middle of a work day) there is little reason for me to stick with this calendar.

    Hoping you'll restore - or create an easy migration tool to Google calendar.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    The option to choose for bright or fade colours is the most user friendly. I have very sensitive eyes and I loved the pastel colours. Now with the beta version (which changed overnight - soo customer unfriendly!) I only have bright colours which give me instant headache.
    Please let us make our own choices and don't force changes upon us - we all are different after all.

  • Mel commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Agree! Much harder to read and not user friendly. Very little options for improving the calendar on your own.

  • Yoyi commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Hate it. Absolutely hate the new look for the email and the calendar. Changed by itself as I did not choose Beta. Not user friendly. Colors are washed out, entries do not stand out like they used to. Liked having all the day's appointments appear on the right hand side.

  • JenM commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I agree that the colors in the beta calendar need to pop more. I color code my calendar so that the more important items are in a bold, bright color, and the other items are in more muted colors. In the new beta, all of the colors are similar -- none of the colors stand out. I need to have a visual way to make certain calendar events stand out.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I don't hate the new version BUT i feel like the colors need to pop more! You can't hardy see any colors that i used before. Like i have specific colors for certain events (like B-days) and i really really liked that i could see in 1 sec what kind of events were planned for me in the week or month. The dates should be bigger or so, it's not very clear… + when you have an event that is planned for several days, you just see the event on the first day and on the rest you just see a line.... and that as well it confusing. This need a lot of improvement.

  • Kate commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Totally agree with loss of colour blocks being a retrograde step 9though I preferred the pastel hues in the old calendar to the child-like bright colours in the beta calendar)

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