Show Us Your True Online Colors
Customers will expect to see perfect color online by the year 2002, according to analysts at Forrester Research. Catalogers who are finally feeling comfortable with computer-to-plate and digital proofs now are facing the daunting task of achieving color perfection on their Web pages.
Today’s online shoppers are demanding more from their online shopping experience, including color accuracy. A study from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Media Metrix shows that 83 percent of online shoppers distrust the colors on their monitors. Yet 80 percent of respondents said accurate color was “very important” when buying clothing, cosmetics, home furnishings and art online.
More importantly, 50 percent of online shoppers wouldn’t buy again from a merchant who delivered an item in a color that was different from what they expected, according to the survey results.
Indeed, the value of a happy customer, if not the cost of returns, is reason enough to provide accurate color online.
For years, catalogers have painstakingly labored to represent products as accurately as technology and the printing press allowed. The task of bringing the same level of perfection to their Web sites presents a formidable challenge to many.
The most critical variable for an online image’s color is the shopper’s computer monitor. Indeed, monitor displays vary not only from model to model, but also from unit to unit. A monitor’s age, display settings and other variables can affect image quality.
And then there’s the operating system. Macs have a significantly brighter display than PCs running on Windows operating systems, and 95 percent of online shoppers view catalogers’ products on a PC running Windows. If you’ve visited a Web site that seems dark, assume an operator—unaware of the difference—created it on a Mac.
1. Capture images digitally—and specifically for non-print use. The days of re-purposing print images for other media are ending. As the Internet continues to mature, Web images will present unique opportunities, such as virtual reality, 3D renderings, multi-color options and detail zooming. Good digital captures provide more color information than analog photos. Start with as much color information as possible.
2. Your photography, monitors and output devices all should be closely calibrated to lessen variability during the production process. When you convert from a Macintosh environment (traditionally used by creatives and prepress) to the Web, account for differences in brightness.
3. Consider investing in a Web image color-correction solution to lessen or eliminate color variables. Two established options include Imation’s Verifi Accurate Web Color and E-Color’s True Internet Color. Let’s explore the investments necessary for these color-improvement options.
When shoppers first enter a site using one of these color solutions, they’re asked to go through a simple and fast four- to seven-step process to capture important display information, such as the brightness, contrast, gamma levels and white points of their monitors. This information is used to create a unique user-monitor profile that’s saved as a cookie and stored in the shopper’s computer.
When the shopper visits other Web sites using the same color solution, the software recognizes the unique profile and adjusts the color images, displaying them in the most accurate manner possible for that particular shopper’s monitor.
The Verifi technology also alerts shoppers to changes in their monitor characteristics, changing company logos, for example, from a bright color (current) to pastel (needs to be refreshed) to gray (not working). This reminds shoppers to “refresh” their color profiles.
Time investment is the only cost to the online shopper for using the Verifi or E-Color solutions.
While the two solutions are similar, there are some significant differences. Verifi uses a scalable enterprise, server-based Web application housed at the cataloger’s location of choice. Images are dynamically color corrected, and based on company estimates, there are about 1.4 million possible color output combinations.
Currently, E-Color’s True Internet Color solution is based on an ASP model, with the images housed and corrected at a remote E-Color server. The company’s new product, Enterprise Imager (available in the fall), will offer its traditional correction software within a scalable-enterprise application.
The cost for a cataloger to implement these solutions can vary, but they start at about $2,000 per month, with overall costs based on image volume.
Many catalogers, business-to-business companies and online storefronts, such as Bloomingdales.com and Dermablend.com, already use either the Verifi or E-Color solutions. Many more are in the process of evaluating what solution is best for their specific needs.
Miriam O. Frawley is president of e-Diner Design & Marketing, an advertising company. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com; through the company Web site at www.e-dinerdesign.com; or by calling (845) 928-6075.
For More Info
The following companies can help catalogers improve their Web sites’ color quality:
• Verifi: www.verifi.net
• E-Color: www.ecolor.com
• Imation: www.imation.com
• Pantone: www.therightcolor.com or www.pantone.com
• International Color Consortium: www.color.org
• Apple: www.colorsync.com or www.apple.com
• www.vischeck.com: to check how your site looks to a color-blind person