How to Benefit from Color Psychology in Your Website Design

Published Sep 30, 2016. Updated Jun 14, 2019.

How to Benefit from Color Psychology in Your Website Design

Without researching the topic of color psychology, you already know that certain colors can spark different emotions and meanings. Your favorite colors can be driving factors behind the way you decorate your house, the clothes you wear, and even the food that you’re most drawn to.

Color choice is significant in branding, marketing, and web design, too. In fact, color can be up to 85% of the reason people decide to buy from a company. Color can build or demolish brand trust, increase or destroy customer loyalty, and form 90% of a customer’s opinion of a brand within just 90 seconds.

So when you set out to either create your first website or redesign an outdated one, it’s no surprise that your web designer will quickly ask about your preferences regarding website color. Before you spout out an answer based on your personal favorites, read through our tips for making smart web design decisions based on the psychology of color.

Step 1: Consider the meanings associated with each color

To a certain extent, you may already understand the meanings associated with common colors. You may be drawn to the color blue when you need to calm down, while something about the color orange may not seem appropriate for formal business documents.

There's a ton of research on just about every color out there
A handy cheat sheet about the psychology behind common colors

Some of these characteristics may explain why certain colors are more popular in particular industries. For example, blue is a color often used by banks, while red is highly recommended for brands involving dating services. Meanwhile, a customer who visits a bright yellow website to read articles about relaxation and deep breathing may feel that something isn’t right — even if they can’t explain why.

Other fun facts for these colors include:

By combining your own perception of certain colors with the perception of the typical user, you already have a good foundation for choosing the colors of your new website. But don’t stop there, because effective color choice is about more than just the meanings associated with them.

Step 2: Consider which colors are recommended for your industry

While your business’ goal is likely not to completely blend in with your competition, there are certain colors that just work well with particular industries (and other colors that can send your users running away).

Common colors across industries include:

While these trends shouldn’t restrict you as you choose the colors for your website, they are trends for a reason. The message your company wants to send is likely similar to that of your competition, so choosing a color that’s a complete curveball for your industry may hurt (by sending the wrong message to customers) more than it can help (by making your brand stand out from your competitors).

Step 3: Consider your target customer and their preferences

Step one also included a bit of information about color preferences across genders, but did you know that there have been pretty in-depth studies conducted on this very topic? It’s more than just “women like purple and men don’t.” There’s actually a ton of interesting information about genders and color preferences:

Between these two images, men may prefer the brighter one and women may prefer the subdued one

Though these two images show similar content, men may prefer the top image (with brighter blues and more pops of green) and women may prefer the lower image (with a calmer, more subdued tone throughout)

But your target demographic can be defined by much more than gender. There are also color psychology-related statistics regarding age, class, education, and even climate. Check out these interesting facts:

Now you can combine your personal color preferences, the emotional meaning associated with colors, the common colors used in your industry, and the preferences of your target demographic to build a rather complex profile. This can be good news for those of you who were reluctant to blend in with your competitors — even if you’re in the same general industry, the specific demographics of your target market can lead to some differentiation between your companies.

Step 4: Remember that what matters more than the colors you choose is how you combine them

At the end of the day, two websites that use blue and white as their main colors can look and function completely differently. Color psychology involves more than just picking that one color you want to use to represent your brand — it involves factors like color schemes, white space, and strategic placement of particular colors, providing a wide spectrum of variety even with the same key color.

Many web designers recommend that each website has at least a background color, a base color, and an accent color. Many also recommend what’s called the 60-30-10 rule, where you choose three colors and use one 60% of the time (as the dominant), another 30% of the time (as a secondary), and the third 10% of the time (the accent).

Take, for example, calls to action. Bright primary colors, such as red, green, orange, and yellow are the highest rated for use on website calls to action. Not all of the colors in this list will pair well with the same dominant and secondary colors in a website’s color scheme. If you think back to elementary school and the color wheel, you’ll remember that you can evoke all sorts of different feelings by pairing colors that are analogous, monochromatic, triadic, complementary, or compound. Before you know it, you have nearly endless color scheme possibilities even after you choose your base.

Then add in components like the amount of white space and the tints, hues, shades, and shadows, and one website with red + white + black can look completely different from another with the same color scheme. And that’s before we even start talking about the layout of the site.

A few final considerations

It’s clear that there’s more to color psychology than simply gravitating to the colors you personally like. It provides so many steps you can take to make smart color decisions on your new website. Even just using color psychology to better understand your target customers can be beneficial as you continue to market to them.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options available, remember a few key points:

And, of course, there is always room for following your gut — even in business. If all the research tells you to choose a color that really feels wrong for your brand, listen to your instinct. You may be surprised by how perceptive your customers can be, and when you choose colors, branding, and strategies that you can stand by, your customers will be able to tell.

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