Have you ever gone to a website for the first time, winced and then immediately clicked off the site because the color was so horrible that it made your eyes hurt?
Yes? I bet you probably didn’t go back to that particular website to make any purchases, either.
The first thing our brains register when we visit a new website is the color used on the site. It takes mere seconds for us to gather the color information and make opinions from the colors we see.
Click to Tweet – “The first thing our brains register when we visit a new website is the color used on the site.”
Color mistakes happen when we don’t take the time to think about the colors we are using, and it can happen even to the best of us.
Deciding the color is seriously important to your branding and to your website design. If you are in the planning stages, it’s good to think about the colors you are going to use objectively. It’s not just picking out your favorite colors and wham-bam, you’re done. You have to think about who will be going to your site and consider how THEY feel about the colors you are choosing, too.
People are all affected by color. How each person is affected is typically determined by three main things: culture, the media, and personal feelings/aesthetics.
I decided to do a little color experiment to test this idea, and the idea that people make color assumptions rather quickly, making color a very important factor to your overall website design and aesthetic.
Here’s how the experiment went down:
1. I took an image that I doodled and changed the color of the doodle into three very distinct color palettes.
2. I created a quiz in Typeform and sent the quiz out to 10 participants.
The participants weren’t aware of what the experiment was exactly, so that made it easier for them to answer from their gut.
3. The participants answered the same three questions for each image, and were instructed to look at the image for only 60 seconds before answering.
The answers were only based on the color in the image, nothing else.
The questions asked:
- Look at the picture below and describe how the colors make you feel. (Use 3 adjectives that you think fit best.)
- Looking at this same picture and basing your opinion off of the colors, what kind of business would you say the person who has this image on their website would have?
- Who would you say this person is trying to reach (as in their ideal client) based on the color palette?
Now you try! Look at the images below and quickly think of your own answers:
What did you come up with?
Here are the results based on my participants:
Image #1 –
- There was split between half of the participants feeling the colors were moody/depressing, whereas others felt the colors were calm/safe.
- Five of the participants felt similarly that this color palette would belong to someone with a web design/graphic design, or creative online business.
- And while the answer to the third question about who this color palette would appeal to varied, a few people mentioned that they could see it appealing to a male client rather than a female client.
- Some of the words used to describe this palette were: energized, spirited, perky, bright, and girly.
- Two of the participants felt this color palette would belong to an author or freelance writer, while others put things like business coach or “maven”.
- Six of the participants felt this color palette would appeal to women, particularly younger women.
- Though some of the participants were immediately turned off by this color combination, the majority felt that the palette was energetic, groovy, retro, “pop-y” and happy.
- Three of the participants stated this color palette would belong to an artist of some kind, while two stated it would be a creative business of sorts.
- The majority of the participants felt the colors would appeal to people who love color, who aren’t afraid to express themselves, and who are creative types.
As you can tell, the colors affected the participants differently, but there were consistencies in their responses.
You can see that colors tell a story, especially when it comes to how the colors are combined together to make a distinct color palette.
Click to Tweet – “Colors tell a story, especially when combined together to make a distinct color palette.”
When thinking about your brand and website, color should not be an afterthought. Here’s a quote from Olivia, hand lettering master from Random Olive, who had this to say about finding a color palette for her own brand:
“I love all things colorful, so narrowing down a specific color palette for my brand was really tough at first. I decided to go with something a bit more muted for my brand (navy, coral, teal) because I knew I wanted to incorporate more vibrant colored photography and art, and I didn’t want a lot of clashing or competition.” Olivia, Random Olive
Olivia took into consideration the end result of what she wanted to do with her website.
Choosing the right colors for your site will help to create a response in your viewer (a potential customer or client), and their response may be good or bad.
Here’s what my go-to marketing guru had to say about color:
“Color is one of those things that can make a website look professional or like a mess. If you’ve got too many colors vying for attention, it often looks amateurish and cluttered whereas if you stick to a limited color palette (of two or three colors), your site automatically looks more professional. The only time I’ve seen a website with lots of bright colors work is Jessica Swift’s site, but her business is based on color and design. She’s got an eye for making lots of colors look great together. Also, the color choice usually says something about the brand. If you’re using bright colors like red, magenta and lemon yellow, I’m expecting the rest of your brand to be adventurous and bold, including the copy. If you have more calming colors like a baby blue and mint green, I’m expecting your brand to make me feel serene and peaceful.” -April Bowles-Olin, Blacksburg Belle
Click to Tweet – “Color can make a website look professional or like a mess. -April Bowles Olin, @blacksburgbelle “
As April said, stick with fewer colors (2-3 at most) and try to choose colors that come together nicely.
In the end, you may still be tempted to just put together a palette based off of your favorite colors, and that can maybe be a good thing. But keep in mind that how your ideal customer perceives color has to be a part of the process.
Because your brand is there to communicate with *them*. Don’t forget that palette of rosy pinks might say “perky, bright, and girly”, but your ideal client may say “blech.”
Such an awesome blog post. Great info.
Thanks, Wendy! :)
Nela Dunato says
This conversation on color reminds me of a time when I was a newbie designer, and everything had to be in my favorite colors – black and red. A LOT of black and red. While this worked for my personal blog (most of my readers found it attractive), the visitors of my business and resource sites weren’t such a great match for what I’ve envisioned.
Before I redesigned my website, I wrote a list of words I wanted my design to communicate (which is an exercise I give to my clients as well). The resulting color palette is my translation of these words into visuals, as well as inspiration from my hand-painted design elements.
The palette still has the dominant colors of black, red, and violet, but the difference is in the ratio. There’s a lot of beige to allow things to breathe, and so the areas of intense color stand out more. It’s stylish and elegant, and not goth.
While colors themselves matter, you can get a very different mood by altering the ratio of colors in design. Having a red website background is not a good idea for most biz owners. Having a bright red full-width area with a call to action on an otherwise not-too-color-intense website can work very well.
Thanks for stopping by and for joining the conversation here. You are so right! It’s a common mistake to just choose your favorite colors in the beginning without putting the extra thought in. I actually use two of my favorites, as well. Ratio is definitely a next-steps thing to think about, after you’ve thought out the first steps about how the colors affect your ideal clients.