Color Theory for Choosing the Website Colors

Is the choice of colors for your website and print materials more than just a matter of personal preference? Does it really matter what color choices you make? Will your audience really feel differently because of the color combinations? The answer to all these questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes!

Color is considered emotional, because variations evoke different emotions in people. We all know that green is the color of money, but did you also know that green can symbolize greed, envy, and jealousy? The colors you choose will have a direct effect on how the public perceives your company or product. This can be complicated by the fact that our use of color on the web is now limitless: technology allows us to create millions of color combinations. So how do you choose? This brief article will make it simple to understand the basics of choosing colors.

It’s important to understand that every color has a positive and negative set of emotions associated with it, what I call the “color meaning”. It’s this meaning that will affect your customer’s emotional response to your company, brand or product. So when choosing color schemes for your website, or any other media type, you need to make sure you’re presenting your company or product with a color that will most likely entice the audience to choose your company or product.

Take a quick break, and go look in your lunch room, refrigerator, or kitchen cabinets at the products we purchase from the grocery store. What color do you see the most of? Chances are, you’re seeing red, and lots of it. Just glimpsing into my cabinets, now that I know I’m looking for it, I seem to be thrown in to a world of red products. Chef Boyardee, Kellogg’s, Lipton, Carnation, Ragu, Aunt Jemima, Nestle, Betty Crocker, Orville Redenbacher’s, Heinz, Pam, all of these brands are jumping out at me with red in their labels. Why? Red is a very “hot” color, and very emotional as well. In studies, red actually has a physical effect on people, increasing their heart rate and causing blood pressure to rise. Red grabs our attention, stirs us to action, and thus is a very powerful color for product packaging.

All colors fit into three categories; cool, warm and neutral. While you can select all of your colors from the same category, it is often possible to achieve a more powerful effect by introducing a color from one of the other groups. Let’s take a look now at how colors work together, and what each color may mean to the viewer.

Cool Colors

Blue, green, purple, turquoise and silver are cool colors. Cool colors tend to have a calming effect on the viewer. Used alone however, these colors can have a cold or impersonal feel, so when choosing cool colors, it may be wise to add a color from another group to avoid this.

Blue Color Meaning (Positive: tranquility, love, loyalty, security, trust, intelligence Negative: coldness, fear, masculinity)

Green Color Meaning (Positive: money, growth, fertility, freshness, healing Negative: envy, jealousy, guilt, disorder)

Purple Color Meaning (Positive: royalty, nobility, spirituality, luxury, ambition Negative: mystery, moodiness)

Turquoise Color Meaning (Positive: spiritual, healing, protection, sophisticated Negative: envy, femininity)

Silver Color Meaning (Positive: glamorous, high tech, graceful, sleek Negative: dreamer, insincere)

Warm Colors

Red, pink, yellow, orange, purple, and gold are warm colors. Warm colors tend to have an exciting effect on the viewer. However when these colors are used alone they can over-stimulate, generating emotions of anger and violence. When choosing warm tones, adding colors from another group will help to balance this.

Red Color Meaning (Positive: love, energy, power, strength, passion, heat Negative: anger, danger, warning, impatience)

Pink Color Meaning (Positive: healthy, happy, feminine, compassion, sweet, playful Negative: weakness, femininity, immaturity)

Yellow Color Meaning (Positive: bright, energy, sun, creativity, intellect, happy Negative: coward, irresponsible, unstable)

Orange Color Meaning (Positive: courage, confidence, warmth, friendliness, success Negative: ignorance, sluggishness, superiority)

Purple Color Meaning (Positive: royalty, nobility, spirituality, luxury, ambition Negative: mystery, moodiness)

Gold Color Meaning (Positive: wealth, prosperity, valuable, traditional Negative: greed, dreamer)

Neutral Colors

Brown, tan, ivory, gray, black and white are neutral colors. Neutral colors are a great selection to mix with a cool or warm palette. They are good for backgrounds in a design, and also tend to tone down the use of other more overpowering colors. Black is added to create a darker “shade” of a primary color, while white is added to create a lighter “tint”.

Black Color Meaning (Positive: protection, dramatic, serious, classy, formality Negative: secrecy, death, evil, mystery)

Gray Color Meaning (Positive: security, reliability, intelligence, solid, conservative Negative: gloomy, sad, conservative)

Brown Color Meaning (Positive: friendly, earth, outdoors, longevity, conservative Negative: dogmatic, conservative)

Tan (beige) Color Meaning (Positive: dependable, flexible, crisp, conservative Negative: dull, boring, conservative)

Ivory Color Meaning (Positive: quiet, pleasantness, pureness, warmness Negative: weak, unstable)

White Color Meaning (Positive: goodness, innocence, purity, fresh, easy, clean Negative: winter, cold, distant)

You may be asking, “What is the right color combination for my business website?” While there is no absolute “right” color for your website, you need to understand your target audience, and consider their response to colors, not your own. If your end goal is for them to choose your company or product, then your color palette must appeal to them. There are overall factors that indicate what your audience may or may not like.

The basic target audience factors to consider are age differences, class differences, gender differences and overall color trends.

Age difference is a key factor that should not be ignored. If children and adolescents are your target audience, then they prefer bright, primary colors like red, blue, green and yellow. However, if your target is older adults, they would prefer more muted or darker colors, along with colors from the neutral color group.

Class difference is another key factor in choosing colors. United States research has shown those in the working class prefer colors they can name like blue, red, green, etc. Those that are more educated tend to prefer more obscure colors like taupe, azure, celadon, salmon, etc.

Gender preference is an obvious factor in choosing your colors. Men tend to prefer cool tones like blues and greens, where women prefer warmer tones, reds and oranges. If you have an audience of both men and women, consider mixing some colors from the warm and cool palettes that would appeal to both men and women.

Last but not least are color trends. By definition, a trend means “current style”. Choosing currently popular colors may work well for some types of websites and products, but if you want to present longevity and stability, then popular colors may not be the best direction for you. Instead, you may want to consider more traditional colors that stand up over time.

Choosing color is more than just picking what feels good to you, it is about creating a response from the viewer. By knowing your target audience and the effect that different colors can have, you gain a greater ability to determine what colors will work best for your audience.

One final note on color. Viewers on the web can use different monitors, different browsers, and different operating systems. It is nearly impossible to ensure that your colors come across the same on every computer as well as in print. Don’t be overly concerned with the differences on varying computers, but do try to be consistent. Whether you’re creating a color palette for your company, a brand identity, or product colors, consistency is key. Use the same colors throughout all your marketing efforts to create familiarity with your company or product. Consistency will help instill trust with your viewer.

Eiseman once said that “Of all the forms of non-verbal communication, color is the most instantaneous method of conveying messages and meanings.” He sure is right.

It has been often said that the website’s color must coordinate well. But when you surf the net you can see too many websites that have horrible color schemes. Good color is essential to the success of a website as color adds interest and flavor. It can be used to highlight important messages and it can draw a visitor’s attention to important elements.

Colors have different effects on people. Certain colors can invoke certain emotions to people and these emotional reactions can affect the image of your company. Anything that can evoke responses in people needs to be looked at carefully when designing your website. There are a few things to consider in choosing the right colors for your site to avoid any mishap.

Use colors wisely. Black and white is best used on text and background colors. Black and yellow can also prove to be very good contrast. However, a site done entirely in yellow or black won’t really be appealing.

When choosing colors for your background and text, make sure that the colors you choose are contrasting ones. You can use a dark color for text against light color for background. Never use similar colors for your text and background. You should be very careful in contrasting colors as some tend to “vibrate” such as red text on blue background. This can hurt some people’s eye.

Simple color choices are often better. When having doubts about your colors you can always use black and white as they are easy to read and does not hurt your website.

Avoid using patterned backgrounds because they appear to be noisy and tends to distract your website. Although they may seem pretty and fun, they often prove very hard to read.

Overall, you have to make sure that the colors that you use are pleasing and attractive to the eye. Select colors that best reflect the image that you want to give your visitors. Do not use normal color intensity images as a background behind text. And ensure that you use uniform color on all your pages to create a brand for your site.

(Photo: PIXABAY)