You may not realize it, but the color scheme that you choose for your website is one of the most important decisions you will have to make.
Color is important because it effects not only your mind, but your body as well. Studies have shown that the color red can stimulate your senses, and even raise your blood pressure. Casinos have been known to use red neon lights because it’s been said that people gamble more while under the glow of a red light. On the other hand, blue tends to have the opposite effect; It’s been shown to calm the mind, and relax the body.
The Psychology of Color
For hundreds of years, scientists have studied the theory of color, and its effects on the human mind and body.
Over time, studies have repeatedly shown that there are “standard” emotions, feeling, or meanings associated with almost every color. Keep in mind these associations are not definite. Past experiences, culture, and more can change how a person reacts to a certain color.
Color Association / Feeling / Emotion / Meaning
Black intelligence, authority, power, strength, stability, mystery, secrecy, evil, dark, depressing, mourning, grieving
White clean, pure, innocent, neutral, simplicty, plain, boring
Red fire, hot/heat, love, passion, excitement, impulse, adventure, action, danger
Blue water, cool, trust, seriousness, success, calm, power, professionalism
Green earth, grass, nature, life, health, money, peace
Orange creativity, comfort, fun, youth, affordable, warning/hazard
Purple Royalty, faith, justice, luxury, fantasy
Yellow amusement, curiosity, cheerfulness, playfulness, caution
Pink softness, sweetness, love, innocence, youthfullness, tenderness
It’s important to note how colors can evoke emotions from both ends of the spectrum, sometimes completely opposing themselves. For example, the color black can evoke emotions of power and strength, but it can also represent evil and depression. The color orange can signal comfort and fun, or hazard and warning.
Choosing What Colors to Use
When choosing the colors for your website there are many things to take into consideration other than the psychology of colors:
- Existing colors: If your company already uses certain colors then you should incorporate them into the website. This helps with your brand awareness.
- Type of site: The type of site you are creating will heavily influence the colors. If you are making a site for your neighborhood farmers’ market then you probably want to consider earth tones that convey the thought of nature, and being natural. Greens, blues, and browns are perfect choices. Business — or “corporate” — websites tend to use blue, white, and green to signal trust, power, or money.
- Target Audience: Your target audience should also play an important role in the color selection. Younger people tend to like orange, red, and other vibrant colors, while senior citizens, or those with vision problems would probably appreciate a more neutral color palette of white, gray, and black.
Colors Associated with Shopping
Scientist have found that certain colors cause certain types of people to react differently when shopping:
- Impulse Buyers tend to respond to blue, black, and red-orange.
- Those who make (and stick to) budgets respond to teal, light blue, navy, and pink.
- Traditional people respond better to sky blue, rose, or pink.
Create a Custom Color Combination
It’s important that the colors you choose work well together. Using the wrong color combination can make your site hard to read, or worse, it can cause the user to become uncomfortable and close the page altogether.
One of the key things to watch out for is text color. You want to make sure that it contrasts (stands out) from the background color. If your users can’t see your text, they can’t read it!
When coming up with a color scheme for a client’s site, I often start with five colors: three “base” colors that are related (colors that are similar, or that do not contrast much with each other), and then two colors to use as “accents” or “highlights” that contrast with the base colors. These five colors are your starting point. You can adjust the brightness, hue, or saturation of a color (think forest green vs. neon green) to find the perfect combination that works for your site.
Where to Find Inspiration for Color Schemes
There are many sources of inspiration to help you choose the colors for your website. You can find sources all around you — take a walk outside to find “natural” inspiration or thumb through your favorite magazine to look for current color trends.
Here are some of my favorite places to find color schemes online:
- Web design galleries. We like: CSS Mania, Screenalicio.us, and CSS Elite.
- Color scheme websites: ColourLovers and Adobe’s Kulr.
- Color scheme generators: Color Scheme Designer and Color Schemer.
Putting it all Together
For most of us, colors play a large role in our everyday lives. They effect the way we feel and the way we act. Choosing the wrong color scheme for your website can have a devastating effect. Take the time to carefully choose colors that work well together and that convey your company’s goal, attitude, or message.
And, most importantly, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! There are no rules that say your corporate website has to be navy blue or stark white, plain and boring. With experience and practice, almost any combination of colors can be used together.
Further Reading for Making Color Choices
How do you choose the colors that you use in your web designs? Leave a comment or Share a Tip!