Windows personalization has confusing duplicate controls for color

Problem

Windows 7 has a cool feature that allows the user to personalize the color of window frames of applications. This can be done by right-clicking on the desktop, choosing “Personalize” and then “Window Color”:

Choosing window colors in Windows 7

The basic mode is quite easy, you can choose either from a pre-selected set of colors (A in the following picture) or choose your own color by pressing “Show color mixer” (B in the picture):

Two ways to choose the window color

However the “Color intensity” and “Saturation” seem to do the same thing:

Color intensity and saturation

The color mixer in fact is a simple HSB color selector which allows the user to adjust a color by the following parameters:

  • Hue: the color spectrum? Red, Blue, etc.
  • Saturation: how strong the color should be? White or Strong
  • Brightness: how dark the color should be? Black or colorful

In fact they both do almost the same thing. So let’s see what different combinations do (Please pay attention to the window frame color in the following images):

Color intensity: max, Saturation: max

Color intensity: max, Saturation: off

Color intensity: off, Saturation: max

Color intensity: off, Saturation: off

This experiment shows that “Color intensity” is almost the same as “Saturation”. One can’t be off while the other is effective. This is confusing for the user because there are two controls that do almost the same thing and the final result depends on the confusing combinations of the two.

Solution

One solution is to show Saturation in basic mode and when the user chooses advanced color controls, show Hue and Brightness:

Window color solution 1: show saturation in basic mode

Another solution is to hide Color Intensity  in the advanced mode. With this solution the HSB controls appear exactly in order: Hue Saturation Brightness:

Window color solution 2: hide color intensity in advanced mode

However since Color Intensity disappears when HSB controls appear, it can be confusing for the user to know what is happening. I recommend renaming “Color intensity” to “Saturation”.

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