When it comes to web design, color is an important piece of any designer’s toolkit. Color has the power to evoke emotions, concepts, and characteristics with no more than a change in hue.
Used correctly, color can be an incredibly effective communicator for marketing and design, and should be an integral piece of the planning process.
Basic Color Theory
Before diving into the complexity of color and how to use it to your advantage, there are a few basic principles of color theory that you should be familiar with.
This refers to the way that we see one color as it relates to another. A good rule to follow is to use colors that exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, as they tend to create the most visually appealing combination.
A stark difference between colors makes content easier to read and reduces strain on the eyes. When choosing background and text color, this is incredibly important.
This refers to the emotional impact that a color has on the viewer. Color can communicate a broad spectrum of emotions and character implications, making it an integral part of successful web design.
Understanding basic color theory is an important supplement to understanding the emotions of color. Choosing emotionally evocative colors has little impact unless the proper color theory is also applied, particularly when considering contrast and complementation.
Common Colors & The Emotions They Invoke
Colors have had symbolic uses for centuries. In fact, the symbolism and characteristics attributed to colors are so ingrained that most of us don’t realize their effects.
The imperial classes of Rome, Egypt, and Persia contributed to giving purple its connotations of royalty, luxury, class, power, and wealth. White robes have been adorned by religious and medical figures for centuries, communicating purity, cleanliness, and sanctity.
When it comes to colors and the emotions they invoke, there is a broad range of culturally-accepted connections. Consider the following interpretations of color—and current examples of color in action— when designing a website:
- Red: Courage, strength, warmth, boldness, urgency, excitement
(Nintendo, Target, Netflix)
- Blue: Intelligence, calm, trust, efficiency, logic, duty, peacefulness
(American Express, IBM, Microsoft)
- Yellow: Optimism, confidence, happiness, friendliness, clarity, creativity
(Best Buy, Ikea, Sprint, McDonald’s)
- Green: Harmony, balance, peacefulness, environmental awareness, reassurance, peace (Animal Planet, BP, Starbucks)
Interpreting color is a dynamic process and can change from one person to the next, depending upon cultural and societal influences, personal experiences, preferences, and even upbringing.
Still, choosing the right color in your website design can speak volumes about the value and character associated with your company. Even better, color can be deliberately used to increase conversion rates and create a more efficient, meaningful website.
Using Color to Increase Conversions
It should be said that, while there are common interpretations of color, there is no “end-all” solution. In short, each company and each brand are different, and colors may function in varying ways. Experimentation and testing—within your targeted audience—is often the best way to identify the colors that work best.
While color association plays a significant role, what we haven’t discussed yet is the importance of contrast in increasing conversions. Combining the right color with the right amount of contrast can go a long way towards increasing conversions.
If you want users to click on a specific component, add contrast. Make that element stand out, and use colors that are not only visually appealing, but that communicate the right emotions. A sharp contrast demands attention and subconsciously attracts the eye. Add the right color, and you will be well on your way to increasing conversions.
In conclusion, when considering the relationship of color to emotion and conversion rates, keep the following in mind:
- Color theory can support aesthetics, subconscious appeal, and efficient design.
- Every color invokes its own emotion and characteristics.
- Testing and experimentation is an important part of identifying the best colors.
- Contrast is one of the most valuable tools to increase conversions.
- Effective website design involves a detailed approach to color.