There are key facts of color theory that are indisputable. Color psychology is a must-study field for leaders, office managers, architects, gardeners, chefs, product designers, packaging designers, store owners, and even expectant parents painting the nursery for the new arrival! Color is critical. Our success depends upon how we use color.
Where Should You Use Color?
Let’s get oriented to our context. Since color is ubiquitous, we need to understand where you should use these color tips. This article discusses the use of color in website design. Specifically, we’re talking about the color scheme of a website, which includes the tint of hero graphics, headline type, borders, backgrounds, buttons and menus.
White Background your main important canvas:
On any mobile device a white background is the ultimate choice, not any other color.
Using the Right Color in the Right Way
Color is a tricky thing. You have to use it in the right way, at the right time, with the right audience, and for the right purpose.
In order to succeed at using the right color psychology, you need to follow these core principles:
- The right way
- The right time
- The right audience
- The right purpose
Here are some tips that the pros use when dealing with conversions and color.
1. Women don’t like gray, orange, and brown. They like blue, purple, and green. The sociological differences between color preferences is a whole branch of study unto itself.
In a survey on color and gender, 35% of women said blue was their favorite color, followed by purple (23%) and green (14%). 33% of women confessed that orange was their least favorite color, followed by brown (33%) and gray (17%).
Other studies have corroborated these findings, revealing a female aversion to earthy tones, and a preference for primary colors with tints. Look at how this is played out. Visit nearly any e-commerce site whose target audience is female, and you’ll find these female color preferences affirmed.
Most people think that the universally-loved female color is pink. It’s not. Just a small percentage of women choose pink as their favorite color. Thus, while pink may suggest femininity in color psychology, this doesn’t mean that pink is appealing to all women, or even most women. Use colors other than pink — like blue, purple, and green — and you may improve the appeal of your e-commerce website to female visitors. And that may, in turn, improve conversions.
2. Men don’t like purple, orange, and brown. Men like blue, green, and black.
If you’re marketing to men, these are the colors to stay away from: purple, orange, and brown. Instead, use blue, green, and black. These colors — blue, green, and black — are traditionally associated with maleness. However, it comes as a slight surprise to some that brown isn’t a favorite pick.
3. BLUE For your menu and elements of your website is the ultimate winning choice!
Blue is one of the most-used colors, with good reason. A lot of people like blue.
Read the literature on blue, and you’ll come across messages like
The color blue is a color of trust, peace, order, and loyalty.
Blue is the color of corporate America and Canada and it says, “Chill . . . believe and trust me . . . have confidence in what I am saying!”
Blue calls to mind feelings of calmness and serenity. It often is described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly.
There is wide agreement in the research community on the psychological effects of the color blue. Its subtle message of trustworthiness and serenity is true. You can use this to your advantage on your website and landing pages.
The world’s biggest social network is blue. For a company whose core values are transparency and trust, this probably is not an accident.
A company that serves as a conduit for billions of dollars, PayPal, also prefers the color blue. Chances are, this helps to improve their trustworthiness. If they were to try, say, red or orange as the theme color and branding, they probably wouldn’t have the same level of conversion.
Blue is, in fact, a color heavily used by many banks.
Although blue is pretty much an all-round great color, it should never be used for anything related to food. Dieters have used blue plates to successfully prevent them from eating more. Evolutionary theory suggests that blue is a color associated with poison. There aren’t very many blue foods — blueberries and plums just about cover it. Thus, never use blue if you’re selling foodie stuff.
4. Yellow is for warnings.
Yellow is a color of warning. Hence, the color yellow is used for warning signs, traffic signals, and wet floor signs. Never use yellow for anything else but to bring attention to your visitors.
It seems odd, then, that some color psychologists declare yellow to be the color of happiness. Business Insider reports that “brands use yellow to show that they’re fun and friendly.” There is a chance that yellow can suggest playfulness. However, since yellow stimulates the brain’s excitement center, the playfulness feeling may be simply a state of heightened emotion and response, not exactly sheer joy.
Color psychology is closely tied to memories and experiences. So, if someone had a very pleasant experience with someone wearing a yellow shirt, eating at a fast food establishment with yellow arches, or living in a home with yellow walls, then the yellow color may cause joy by memory association.
One of the most-cited “facts” about the color yellow is that it makes babies cry and people angry. To date, I have not found any study that backs up this claim, even though everyone is fairly comfortable repeating it.
Whatever the case, it does seem true that “yellow activates the anxiety center of the brain,” as reported by one color expert.
A heightened anxiety level during any website experience is never a good thing, unless it comes in small doses. Thus, a yellow call to action may create just a touch of anxiety that’s needed to make them click the desired call to action.
Use yellow in small doses unless you want to cause unnecessary anxiety.
5. Green is ideal for environmental and outdoor products.
Perhaps the most intuitive color connection is green — the color of outdoors, eco-friendly, nature, and the environment. Green essentially is a chromatic symbol for nature itself.
Apart from its fairly obvious outdoorsy suggestiveness, green also is a color that can improve creativity. Labeled “the green effect,” one study indicated that participants had more bursts of creativity when presented with a flash of green color as opposed to any other color.
If the focus of your website has anything to do with nature, environment, organic, or outdoors, green should be your color of choice.
Green isn’t just about nature, though. Green also is a good call to action color, especially when used in combination with the “isolation effect,” also known as the von Restorff effect, which states that you remember things better if they stand out. You remember the Statue of Liberty because it’s big, tall, green, and there aren’t a whole lot of them in the New York harbor. In color psychology, the isolation effect occurs when a focus item, such as a conversion step, is the only item of a particular color. The technique works wonders for calls to action, and green is an ideal choice.
The word “green” itself is a buzzword for environmental awareness and appreciation. Using the word and the color itself can lend an environmental aura to your website, improving your reputation among those who are passionate about environmental concerns.
5. Orange is a fun color that can create a sense of haste or impulse.
The positive side of orange is that it can be used as the “fun” color. According to some, orange helps to “stimulate physical activity, competition, and confidence.” This may be why orange is used heavily by sports teams and children’s products.
It makes sense. Orange means active. Orange means fun. Orange means togetherness. Because it’s a loud and warm color. However, orange can be slightly overwhelming. An article on Psych.Answers.com advises, “Orange will be used sparingly to bring your attention to something, but not so much as to overwhelm the actual message of the advert.”
Sometimes, orange is interpreted as “cheap.” (Compare this to black, which is the color of luxury. See below.) Forbes posed the question, “Does orange mean cheap?” in an article on the “Effect of Color on Sales of Commercial Products.” The resounding answer was “yes.” If your product offering is cheap, or if you want it to be seen as such, orange may be a good choice. Vive la Big Lots.
6. Black adds a sense of luxury and value.
The darker the tone, the more lux it is, says our internal color psychology. An article from Lifescript describes black as “elegance, sophistication, power,” which is exactly what luxury designers and high-end e-commerce sites want you to feel. The article goes on to describe black as the color of “timeless, classic” which helps further explain the use of black in high-value products. Yet for a lot of people black is also dark and depressing.
In a Business Insider piece on color and branding, the author relates the significance of black:
“Black can also be seen as a luxurious color. ‘Black, when used correctly can communicate glamour, sophistication, exclusivity.’”
Louis Vuitton handbags are not cheap. Absent from the site are colors and designs of whimsy and fun.
This is serious value:
If you are selling high-value luxury consumer items on your website, black probably would be a good choice. But should be limited for black has the opposite effect.
7. Use bright primary colors for your call to action.
In strict testing environments, the highest-converting colors for calls to action are bright primary and secondary colors – red, green, orange, yellow.
Darker colors like black, dark gray, brown, or purple have very low conversion rates. Brighter ones have higher conversion rates.
Women’s Health uses a bright mauve-tinted shade for their popup call to action. They’ve got the female-associated purple/pink tint going for them, along with a bright tone.
Some of the best conversion colors are the “ugly” ones — orange and yellow. An article on ColorMatters.com states, “Psychologically, the ‘anti-aesthetic’ colors may well capture more attention than those on the aesthetically-correct list.” Since the goal of a conversion element is to capture attention, then you may do just fine with that big orange button (BOB). Or yellow.
8. Don’t neglect white.
In most of the color psychology material I read, there is a forgotten feature. Maybe that’s because color theorists can’t agree on whether white is a color or not. I don’t really care whether it is or not. What I do know is that copious use of white space is a powerful design feature. Take, for example, the most popular website in the world. Google main search engine page. It’s basically all white:
White is often forgotten, because its primary use is as a background color. Most well-designed websites today use plenty of white space in order to create a sense of freedom, spaciousness, and breathability.
The Internet is a colorful place, and there is a lot that can be accomplished by using color in the right way, at the right time, with the right audience, and for the right purpose.
Naturally, this article leads to questions about making changes in your company’s context. What about if your company has a specific color style guide? What if the logo color dictates a certain tint? What if the lead designer dictates color requirements? How do you deal with that?
You may not be in a position to rewrite your style guide and pick your own website color palette or font colors on the email template. So, how can you use color psychology in these situations? There are a few options:
If the colors really suck, campaign for change. In some situations, you may need to make a difference. If you’re a high-heel designer selling to upscale women, but have a crappy orange logo, share your concerns with the decision-makers. People sometimes make stupid color decisions. Kindly show them why and how a killer color scheme can make a conversion difference.
Use psychology-appropriate colors that match the existing color scheme. Sure, you need to adapt to the color scheme, but you can still use a splash of strategic color here and there. Let’s say, for sake of example, that you have a blue-themed website. Fine. You can create a popup to harvest email addresses, and use a bright yellow button. The button is psychology-appropriate, and it doesn’t do damage to the company’s color branding.
Avoid color overload. I’ve just spent over 1,000 words telling you how important and awesome color is. Now, you’re going to go out and color something. But don’t go overboard. Remember my final point. I put it last for a reason. White and Blue are colors, and it should be your BFF colors, too. Reign in your color enthusiasm with a whole lot of white. Too many colors can create a sense of confusion and the key factor is less color more content, for content is still king.
And remember the most important element in the use of colors... how they will be displayed on all major mobile devices and HD TVs...