July 23, 2006

Green means stop. Red means go.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I find the website Rotten Tomatoes to be counterintuitive. Now don’t get me wrong, I find the site quite useful. I’m not highly critical of it in general. But this one thing throws me off every time.

At Rotten Tomatoes, they collect movie reviews from across the internet, and use them to give movies a rating of either “fresh” or “rotten.” But every time I visit the site, I have to retrain my brain to use it properly.

Fresh Tomato If a reviewer likes a particular movie, you see a brief quote from the review along with a picture of a fresh tomato. That’s right, there’s a big red circle, like say a stop sign or stop light, next to reviews that like the movie.

Rotten Tomato If a reviewer doesn’t like a movie, you see a small quote from the review along with a picture of a splattered rotten tomato. So there is a big green asterisk-like star next to reviews that didn’t like the movie.

So red circle means “Good movie” and green star means “Bad movie.”

Okay, it’s not that big a deal, true. But every time I visit, I get thrown off by this.


I agree. (That is all.)

Me too.

I have the exact same situation happen to me everytime. Happy to know I’m not alone, though I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me so much. Thanks for pointing out the red/green problem.

This bothers me every time I use the site.

Here’s a similar stupidity: why do black (licorice-flavored) twizzlers come in a red box, and red (strawberry-flavored) twizzlers come in a blue box? I’ve bought the licorice twizzlers by accident (seeing the red box) several times.

I concur. It is counterintuitive.

I also felt that way about Layer-It! a crappy layering plugin for QuarkXpress than my company used to use. (Remember Quark? When it was good?)

Anyway, the plugin had its own metaphor for enabling/disabling a layer: a lightbulb. Good idea, however, they picked the wrong ones (in my opinion) to represent on and off. Photoshop has it right, with an eyeball icon OR absence of an icon. The lightbulb is either an outline of the bulb or a filled in (solid black) shape of a lightbulb. The solid black one represented an ENABLED layer. I always think of black lightbulbs as off.

I came across your website because i was just googling “Green means stop Red means go”. I thought you might like to know (and i confirmed it because i found it printed on About.com, so it must be true;) that pyschologically, green actually does mean stop, and red actually does mean go. Apparently people had real trouble with traffic lights when they were first introduced for this very reason.

Beautiful site design by the way. Really creative and unique.

Best Wishes,

“asterisk-like star”

That is classic. With au jus sauce. Asterisk basically means star-thingy.

I’ve included my email in this comment because it looks like they’re only available to you, and I figured you might want to email me (about my other comment).

In the science lab at my school, there’s a poster with a RED check mark next to an example of a good essay. Beside that, there’s a GREEN X next to a bad essay. Don’t know what they were thinking when they made this poster.

I immediately thought of this post when i saw it.

Yes that is quite ironic. People have queer ways of symbolizing things. Although red and green do not mean anything on their own, we live in a society that has attached certain meaning to the colors. It definitely makes more sense to use what people are accustomed to rather than attaching a new meaning to them. We run a global sustainability website online called the Climatarians directory that covers many kinds of green issues, and not necessarily restricted to tomatoes!