Website design colour schemes must be analysed carefully. The colour palette you choose affects communication, user experience and purchase decisions so it’s important to spend some time thinking about it.
If you’ve studied art or graphic design you’ll probably already be familiar with the logic behind colour theory. It’s a marketing issue. Keep your audience in mind and constantly ask yourself what kinds of ideas your colours communicate to them.
In this post I’m sharing some resources, ideas and a video at the end.
Colour Communication Examples
You might notice corporate websites often use a blue colour system because it represents professionalism and trust. Blue is often successful when used for medical, scientific, government, health, technology, legal, dental and corporate websites.
Take care when choosing your colour scheme. There are positive and negative connotations with colours – two sides of the same coin.
For detailed analysis visit Color Matters. It’s a great educational resource.
Positive: Warmth, love, boldness, excitement, speed, strength, energy, determination, desire, passion, courage, socialism
Negative: Anger, danger, restriction
Positive: Feminine, love, caring, nurture, friendship
Positive: Cheerfulness, affordability, enthusiasm, stimulation, creativity, food, liberal
Negative: Warning, facetious, unintelligent
Positive: Attention-grabbing, comfort, liveliness, optimism, overwhelm, Summer, comfort, liveliness, intellect, happiness, energy
Negative: Cowardice, hunger, conflict
Positive: Durability, reliability, environmental, luxurious, optimism, well-being, nature, calm, relaxation, Spring, safety, honesty, optimism, harmony, freshness
Negative: Envy, illness
Positive: Peace, professionalism, loyalty, reliability, honor, trust, coldness, depth, stability, professionalism
Negative: Melancholy, boredom
Positive: Power, royalty, nobility, elegance, sophistication, luxury, mystery, royalty, elegance, magic
Negative: Artificial, pompous, conceit, mourning
Positive: Conservatism, traditionalism, intelligence, serious
Negative: Dull, uninteresting
Positive: Relaxing, confident, casual, reassuring, nature, earthy, solid, reliable, genuine, endurance
Negative: Dirty, dull, humourless
Positive: Elegance, sophistication, formality, power, strength, depression, morbidity, night
Negative: Illegality, death
Positive: Cleanliness, purity, newness, virginity, peace, innocence, simplicity
Negative: Sterility, cold, isolating, boring
Why Web Links Are Often Blue
Even with the advances in web design, it’s still common to see sites with the classic blue hyperlinks. It’s the same colour you see in a Microsoft Office Word file if you create anchor links on text.
The explanation is anecdotal: Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, is allegedly responsible for blue hyperlinks.
In the early days of the web, Berners-Lee created a browser called Mosaic which displayed black text over a gray background. The only other dark colour available at that time was blue. To make links stand out, blue was used.
My argument for blue being used so frequently is that it became ingrained, just like the Windows Start button being on the bottom left of your PC screen. Similarly, website logos are usually on the top left.
Google displays blue titles in search results as well as in Adwords units. These are things we are used to. If you’re going to go and use a colour other than blue for hyperlinks, make sure it’s obvious that this is what they are.
Effect on Website User Experience
Using passive colours as well as a single action colours is helpful. Generally, anything that can be clicked with the mouse must use the same colour throughout the entire site.
By doing this you’re conditioning people to learn how to navigate your site.
A single colour for clicking offers up a good user experience and leaves no opportunity for confusion. The exception to this rule of “action colours” is that the main navigation menu can use different colours.
The reasoning behind this is that those particular links/buttons are usually placed somewhere near the top of your header – a typical place for a website nav menu.
Never use all different colours on the links/buttons. Don’t have some red, some blue, some green, for example. Aim for a consistent use of colour for particular elements.
Less is more in design. Distill the colour palette and gives your visitors clues as to what things they should click and what they shouldn’t
Here’s a video on website action colours:
If you’re after inspiration try this handy colour scheme generator. Tap the space bar to generate colours and click a colour bar to lock it. The hex colours are provided.
Up to 5 colours can be chosen but I strongly recommend you lock white (#FFFFFF) as a default since almost all web sites have white in them somewhere. If you want to use less colours in general, choose and lock white again.
What I like is the option to download an image file containing your colour scheme. It’s handy knowing you can supply a PDF to a website client complete with hex colours.
Similar in principle to the previously mention tool is colourco.de. Move your mouse around freely on the screen until you see a colour you like.
Then build a pallete and save it as .PNG or create a permalink to the colour scheme.
Another approach to your colour scheme is to take a more academic approach using this colour calculator.
This tool generates colour pallets based on colour theory and the colour wheel. The wheel is a chart devised in the 1600’s to demonstrate the relationship between colours and how we can achieve a harmonious balance.
The page gives some good information including an overview of complementary, monochromatic, analogous, complements, triadic and tetradic positions on the colour wheel.