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Old Habits Die Hard: Web-Safe Colors

I put my first website up in 1997. While I was rocking my 16-bit color depth and massive 19" CRT monitor (which weighed about 70 pounds), I knew plenty of people that only had 8-bit color capabilities on their computers. I wanted the websites I designed to look as similar as possible for everyone so, when designing my websites, I took great care to stick to a nice 256 color palette; the so-called web-safe colors.

As I continued to build websites, my starting point for design was generally VisiBone Webmaster’s Color Lab. I would click around the color wheel finding combinations of those 256 colors that looked good together so I could begin building a template for a site. It was just recently that I realized I probably don’t need to do this anymore. As a matter of fact, I'd bet that there are designers that don't even know what 'web-safe colors' means.

So I decided to do some research into what color depths my visitors had. This is a low-traffic site, getting about 1,200 unique visitors per month. The color depth stats for the last month were:

Color DepthColors (2 ^ Depth)Visits
16-bit 65,536 1.18%
24-bit 16,777,216 57.87%
32-bit 4,294,967,296 40.95%

No one is using less than 16-bit and the overwhelming majority are 24-bit or better. Being a technology based site with a technically minded audience might have skewed the results, so I checked the stats on a much larger site that I work on.  Over the last month, that site had a little over 140,000 visits from almost 80,000 unique visitors. The color stats for that site were not too different:

Color DepthColors (2 ^ Depth)Visits
4-bit 16 0.13%
8-bit 256 0.03%
16-bit 65,536 1.60%
24-bit 16,777,216 51.22%
32-bit 4,294,967,296 46.94%

While there were a few people that had 8-bit (and 4-bit) color depths, it was a miniscule number. Even the number of people using 16-bit depth was vary small.

What does all this mean? I’m saying goodbye to my old habit of putting everything in a web-safe color palette. What do you think? Is there any use for the web-safe 256 color palette anymore?