Color Psychology in Designing a Website
by Owen Oliver
Every color evokes certain thoughts, reactions, and emotions. When businesses design a logo, they use color psychology to speak to their desired customers and project what kind of service and atmosphere they can expect from the establishment. When designing a website it is especially important to use the right combination of color to welcome potential customers because they are always just one click away from leaving.
The right colors depend on the nature of your site, is a charity, a business? What sort of niche is your establishment? All of these things and more must be taken into consideration when designing a website for a particular organization. Here is a look at the most basic colors, what they mean, and how they can be manipulated to project a certain vibe to potential visitors:
A typical color used among health sites. Lighter red can invoke passion, love, strength, and warmth whereas darker red can evoke aggression, anger, and danger. Red is arguably the most variable color when it comes to positive and negative emotion. Either way it serves best to reinforce and intensify the meaning of the text around it so use it wisely.
The most light-hearted of all colors, yellow invokes cheer, optimism, fun, and positivity. However, yellow can also evoke cowardice and weakness if used in the wrong context. The military would rarely use yellow for anything but places like family restaurants, parks, and daycare centers would be very compatible with it. Notice in many travel sites that cater to family vacations the sun is yellow where in more “honeymoon” or exotic sites the sun is orange or red. Yellow adds a playful tone to whatever is associated with it so make sure if you use it that is the message you’re going for.
Ever notice how many food logos contain the color orange? Being a combination of red and yellow, it carries a lot of the best qualities of both. Like red, it can evoke warmth, comfort, and passion. Similar to yellow, it can friendliness, optimism, and fun. Like any other color orange has a dark side too. Orange, especially when used with black, can also carry the meaning of deprivation. Notice how many traffic/hazard signs are orange. This color is best used with niches that are about as far from serious as you can get and should be used in moderation with lighter schemes of other colors. Orange is a color that is hard to take seriously but when it is (usually with black) it tends to send more foreboding message (think Halloween).
Green is a very commonly used color among business sites because it tends to project balance and relaxation. At the same time it can represent a level of growth and healing but not quite health. Hospitals would use red in their logos where a spa would use green. Financial, environmental, and healing niche sites tend to market well with green. Everyone wants to be grow healthier and richer, how serious an organization is about it can be largely reflected in how dark the shade of grey they use. Be careful with this one though as green can also evoke envy and distrust if too dark. The right shade of green is the one that appears calm but capable, not crude.
Blue is second only to red in it’s range of positive and negative emotions evoked. Ironically it seems to evoke many opposite emotions to red as it represents anything from tranquility and loyalty to depression and sadness. Blue is considered by most to be the most trusting color and therefore is used by many businesses that deal with serious matters such as the law and insurance. Blue also can represent coldness and lack of emotion so it is best to keep it with the more serious businesses unless it is in an extremely light shade for something recreational.
Purple is the color of royalty, sophistication, and ceremony. This is another tricky one to use because it usually only appeals to a minor population. High end fashion designers tend to use purple a lot to promote the status of those who wear their clothes so it some ways it can work to reach the more materialistic audience. Lighter shades of purple can be fun though as they are often associated with fantasy and spirituality (think fortune tellers). Be sure the niche you are designing a site for wants to send a very particular message in line with purple’s message as misusing this color can potentially turn a lot of people away.
Many people think black is dark, scary, or evil but in advertising it tends to carry the message of tradition, authority, and mystery. Black is a solid color that can get a serious message across in a light tone if you surround it with brighter colors. That being said, it’s traditional projection may also be seen as boring or unoriginal by some. Include black at the necessary points such as informational text and borders but try to go without using it as a theme to the site unless you’re trying to look intimidating.
Grey is about as neutral as they come in all areas. It carries authority and stability but virtually no personality attention capturing emotion. If you use grey be sure and use some powerful colors around it such as red or orange. The biggest knock on grey is that in tends to evoke lack of confidence and is generally not so great in advertising.
The color brown is usually debated as to exactly what it brings out in others but the few things people do generally agree on is capability and masculinity. Brown tends to be for the more rugged, nature-driven sites that are all about using more traditional methods. Brown can appeal to those looking for simplicity and calm such as camping sites or fishing. It is not the most widely used color in advertising personality for a site but for very particular niches it can be effective.
The color of purity and peace, white tends to evoke truthfulness or cleanliness. White is so commonly used that most people tend to overlook it but I have found it is like throwing up a hail mary. It’s a bold move and if you use it you better be sure what you have to offer is the absolute best solution to whatever the visitor is looking for. Otherwise it’s just another blank page with words.
What other thoughts and emotions do these colors evoke? What combinations really work best for certain niches?