Many people base their color choices on what they personally find appealing, or they don’t put much thought into their color palette at all. An understanding of color can give you a crucial edge when it comes to designing a website that appeals to your target market.
The goal is to make the viewing experience as pleasurable and stimulating as possible. The longer people linger on your website, the higher the probability of gaining a solid lead or sale.
The Psychology of Color
A great deal of research has been done on the psychology of color and there are many charts available which explain what colors signify. Red, for example, is said to create a sense of passion and excitement, while blues and greens set a tranquil and harmonious tone. Black is associated with luxury and sophistication. Pink is the conventional color of romance and femininity. There is a snazzy if dated chart here which shows some options.
It’s good to have a general idea of what colors symbolize, but the truth is there’s no easy formula for choosing the right color palette for your website. The meaning of colors varies between cultures and even within the same culture. People’s reactions will also be influenced by their individual preferences.
More importantly, researchers have discovered that colors can’t be considered in isolation because their effect is heavily dependent on the way in which they interact with each other. Color choice is more holistic than color charts imply. Design elements such as contrast and framing also play an important role in how colors are perceived.
Which Color Combinations Work Best?
A well-known rule for website design is to choose only three main colors for your palette. If you use too many colors then nothing will stand out and the overall effect will be chaotic and overwhelming.
This doesn’t mean you are limited to using exactly the same colors on every page. Different shades of your chosen colors can be used to add visual interest while maintaining a sense of cohesion.
It’s also helpful to know that colors don’t have to ‘match’ to have the desired impact. Beginners tend to choose similar colors for their palette because they aren’t confident with bolder choices. Shades which are next to each other on a color wheel are known as analogous colors and combinations include orange, red and yellow.
While analogous color schemes can work well, it has also been found that colors which are directly opposite each other on the color wheel create a sense of balance which is appealing to the eye. These are called complementary colors and they have the most impact when used together.
Designers often make use of a triadic color scheme when choosing a palette. This involves placing a triangle over the top of a 12-part color wheel in order to select three colors which are evenly spaced around the wheel. Here is an awesome tool for picking color schemes: Adobe Kuler.
Possible combinations include purple, green and orange. When using this approach, it is recommended that one color is chosen as the dominant shade while the other two are used for accents.
This can be very effective if your dominant color is muted. Splashes of bright color will draw the eye to areas you want people to notice, such as a buy button or a call to action.
The Importance of Contrast
A great color palette alone cannot guarantee the visual appeal of your website. The use of design elements such as contrast and framing are also key in ensuring that the chosen colors have the desired impact.
Contrast, as the name implies, refers to the way light and dark colors are used together. Of particular importance is the contrast between text and background on a website.
A combination of a bright background and colored text can be extremely hard on the eye and make reading uncomfortable. The same is true of a patterned background.
Experts agree that a light background with black or dark grey text is easiest to read, or vice versa. Readability is the prime consideration if you want people to engage with your content, and bold or low contrast color combinations generally aren’t very effective when it comes to written text.
The way in which words and images are framed using a combination of borders and color will also determine how the eye travels across a page. It’s essential to know the order you want people to look at different elements on your site.
It’s also important to leave enough white space on your website pages. It can be tempting to saturate your website with color, but less is sometimes best. White space creates a sense of freedom and breathing room which encourages visitors to stay.
Tips for Choosing the Best Color Palette
Before choosing your colors make sure you have a firm understanding of your target market and the impression you want to create. Are you seeking to convey excitement, trustworthiness, glamour or security?
Educate yourself about the principles of design. There is a lot of excellent information online that breaks down design principles in a way that everyone can understand.
Analyze other websites. Look at your competitors to see how they’ve used color and design elements and consider whether their choices work. Marketing today is more visual than ever. Training yourself to see with a designer’s eye is one of the most helpful things you can do for your business.
Make good use of widely available tools and templates which enable you to experiment with different color schemes and styles.
Ask for feedback. Social media is an excellent source of information about how customers perceive your marketing, so encourage customers to comment and engage.
Choosing a great color palette for your website is one of the most important marketing decisions you’ll make. By taking the time to get this right you will enhance your website’s appeal and increase the leads and sales which it generates.