Use of Color in Web Design

Color is something that human beings respond to on an almost instinctual level. Various colors trigger simple but inadvertent reactions within our subconscious minds.

The beauty of that is that as web designers we can capitalize on those intrinsic connections to help subtly strengthen our designs. By using different colors strategically in different ways we can tacitly encourage the behaviors and reactions we want from users.

Black and white

For formality and sophistication, there is nothing quite as effective as the traditional juxtaposition of black and white. But out of balance too much black can overwhelm a site and too much white can make it overly stark. Black, on its own, reflects seriousness and authority but it can also read dark and depressing, largely due to its association with death by most cultures. White is a beacon of innocence and purity. Used together they can be very powerful. Black and white photographs are still often seen as more artistic and beautiful than full color. The black and white pairing is balanced and almost universally aesthetically pleasing. When this duo is injected with a bit of another color it can create a clean and effective color scheme for any website.

Red

Too much red can be a complete disaster. Try staring at an all red screen for more than a few seconds. Ouch. I wouldn’t advise it. But in small doses, red is a powerful color for web design. Red has an almost primal effect on humans. Associated with blood, danger and sexuality this color can actually increase blood pressure and stimulate users. If you want to create a sense of urgency surrounding an action there is no better color than red. Our eyes are immediately drawn to it and it creates an instant energy. That makes it a color which is extremely useful for highlighting important titles, keywords, offers or links. Of course, because it is such a striking color, it is best used sparingly in these cases. Red can also indicate an error or a problem, which makes it a great color to use to mark a missing or miss-entered field in a form.

Blue

This is one of most people’s favorite colors for a reason. Blue is the color of the sea and the sky and its many hues are seen around the world every day. Its natural occurrences give this color a unique vastness and spirituality, bringing with it an inherent sense of peace and tranquility. The opposite of red, blue has a calming effect on humans; it can actually reduce stress and blood pressure. That’s why this color is such a popular choice in hospitals. For web designers, when seeking to bring a sense of comfort to a visitor, blue is a smart color. It is effective in health and finance related industries as it also helps create a sense of trust and credibility. While it is not as visually striking, it is reassuring and so it is often used for “Buy Now” and “Pay Here” action buttons.

Green

The most frequently occurring color in nature, green is everywhere around us. In recent years this color has also become known as the mascot for anything that is environmentally friendly. Also popular in modern decorating, green as a color is on the rise. Physically, green is actually easier on the eyes than other colors and may even have a positive effect on vision. That makes it a good color for some things which could be harder to see. Like its spectral neighbor blue, green has a relaxing effect on people and can also be used to reassure and comfort. Because green is also frequently the color of money, it is a common color for financial institutions. The fact that green is a conservative color that may imply wealth, also makes it a good color for websites that seek to help others make money. Also like blue, this is an effective color for relieving stress, and can be used in calls-to-action, to prevent users from feeling any decision-related anxiety.

The way that color and users interact on the web is still a fairly new area of study. But the psychology of color is an ancient field of research. We can take the symbolic power of various colors and use them to simulate the mental, emotional and even physiological responses we desire. When placed strategically on websites various colors can serve different functions. But the most important thing for any designer to remember is that each color has an inherent power that can be utilized wisely. Every color decision should be rooted in the message the user is meant to receive both visually and sub-consciously.

Juliet is a writer for Print Express a UK printing company. She has been writing as a freelancer and blogger for a number of years. Juliet has also worked as a marketer, copywriter and brand consultant.