You are driving your car through a rural area, enjoying the
countryside. At some point you come to an intersection in the
road. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a green stop sign.
Do you stop or drive right through the intersection?
Chances are, if you do not directly look at the sign, you will
drive right on through. Why? Because in many nations of the
world, green means "go" and red means "stop."
Color exists only in our minds. It is a sensation based on a
reaction to variations in light wavelengths. We have an
emotional response to those wavelengths.
In the world of web sites, color is just as important in
creating an effective user experience as copy or object
placement. Using the wrong color may prevent an individual from
purchasing a product. There are several reasons for this.
Thousands of years of history and a vast spectrum of religious
beliefs have contributed to the development of color symbolism.
Practically every culture on earth has assigned meaning to
color. Because this is so ingrained in society, color can have a
powerful influence on human feeling. For example, you may be
familiar with expressions such as "feeling blue," or "it's a
A single color may have a different connotation from one culture
to the next. A classic example of improper use of color is the
EuroDisney debacle. Disney executives chose purple to be a
predominant color in the EuroDisney logo, not realizing that
this color often symbolizes death in Catholic Europe. As a
result, the general public was not enthused.
When choosing a marketing strategy for your web site, carefully
evaluate who your audience is. Never allow personal preference
to dictate your final decision!
Psychology is closely tied to Symbolism. Color can convey
warmth, weight, etc. A web site advertising hot air balloons
will generally not contain large amounts of black. Black and
navy blue are heavy colors. Implying that your company's hot air
balloons are heavy is not a good idea. Lighter, vibrant colors
such as yellow and sky-blue are more appropriate.
Yellow often conveys a feeling of warmth and could work well on
a web site promoting an island vacation spot. Yet it may not be
appropriate on a police force web site. Yellow can carry
connotations of sickness, cowardice, envy and treachery.
Other "warm" colors are red and orange. These lively colors
excite the emotions. People who like red tend to be impulsive,
energetic, and crave action and success. However, overuse of
these colors can produce tension.
"Cool" colors include violets, blues and greens. These colors
are tranquil and have a calming effect in people. Blue and light
green are soothing, suggesting the outdoors.
Studies performed over the past few decades seem to indicate
that men tolerate less saturated colors, however they gravitate
toward more highly saturated color. Therefore, advertising that
contains reds, bright blues and grays may appeal more to a man
than a woman.
Women tend to gravitate to cool, relaxed colors and seem to be
more color conscious than men.
In both genders, it has been found that achromatic, sterile
colors may produce increased heart rates and contribute to
higher levels of stress.
Light produced by a computer monitor is not constant. As you
read this article, you are viewing approximately 30 separate
images a second. Your brain rejects the information it doesn't
want to see, and blocks out the frequent moments that your
screen is blank. With this in mind, it is important not to make
the colors on your web site too busy. This produces unnecessary
strain on your eyes. Harsh, contrasting colors should be
avoided. Giving people headaches does not aid in selling
It should also be noted that there are four factors that
determine how color is rendered on your computer monitor: the
CPU (the computer's brain), the computer platform (Windows, Mac
OS, etc.), the video card, and the monitor itself. What you see
may not be what others see. In some cases, royal red may appear
as hot pink. Navy blue may look black. During the development
process, try to view your site on different computers.
So what do you do?
You may find, in many cases, trial and error is the only way to
determine what works. Be patient, and don't hesitate to make
changes. The factors in determining color schemes of a web site,
or any advertising for that matter, require careful
consideration. Remember... Symbolism, Psychology, Gender, and
Technology... Color does matter.
About the author:
Jake Gorst is a writer, film maker, and president of Exploded
View (http://www.explodedview.tv), a new media advertising and
design company. He also is a frequent contributor to various
trade publications on topics related to Web site and
architectural design psychology and trends. Previously, Gorst
served as Vice President and Chief Creative Officer for E-Media
Publishing, Ltd. and as an Internet content developer for
Citibank and other Long Island based corporations.