Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Use of Color in Design

If I have to visit one more adult site with a black cave-like color scheme, I'll scream.

Don't get me wrong, there are some sites where the use of black is a good thing, a welcomed thing, but in general, too many sites think 'black equals dark & private' when in reality it can feel like 'dark, dreary, & disgusting.' (I like to feel a bit dirty, sure ~ but in the naughty way, not some 'trapped in a coffin with mud pouring in through the cracks' way.)

Unless you have a goth, BDSM, or a site that deals with power, death, or other related issue, maybe too much black is saying the wrong thing about your website ~ or it just makes your site look like all the other sites out there.

So, what colors are you using in your website? What are they saying to your visitors?

Colors can have both a direct & indirect impact on usability (a visitor's response to your web site), and color can play a huge role in your branding efforts (marketing & design work).

Colors are often categorized as temperatures or seasons, which can give you a rather good idea of possible responses:

Cool Colors (calming) Blue, Green, Turquoise, Silver

Warm Colors (exciting) Red, Pink, Yellow, Gold, Orange

Mixed Cool/Warm Colors Purple, Lavender, Green, Turquoise

Neutral Colors (unifying) Brown, Beige, Ivory, Gray, Black, White

There are some excellent resources to help you more with color definitions, but generally you can use good ol' common sense to help guide you ~ providing you are part of your target market. If you are not, then some research is probably a good idea.

Some folks think that the use of color is not important in web design, but there is far too much study, documentation, and my own personal experience with the use of & response to color for me to dismiss it.

In fact, many companies study the impact & affects of colors to determine more than just their logos.

For example, did you know that orange is used by many fast food restaurants for a reason?

Orange is a color that encourages folk to move out faster, thereby freeing tables for more customers, as well as (one hopes!) makes the employees work faster. So Hardee's used the orange inside, and then took it to another level by using the orange to brand the company.

In order to update their look, Hardee's has since changed to red with their yellow star logo. Red & yellow are still 'active' colors, and red is known to increase appetites, so perhaps they wanted to change their focus from 'fast' to 'eat more.' I don't know for certain, but I bet it has to do with the entire fast food industry changing the focus from 'fast' (which is now a given) to the increasing trend to make us order more ('Super size' it, baby!).

Need another example? Think of your latest lingerie purchse. Be it for yourself, or your gal-pal, didn't you consider color? A white gown is virginal, a red one is racy. A pink teddy is sweet, and a black one is slutty. Your website colors convey that too.

And color is more than the 'mood,' it dictates action too. Think of the colors you use for your call to action: is your 'subscribe button' the right color to not only get noticed, but make them want to act now?

Of course, you also have to view the overall design of the website when you use colors. Do your website colors compliment each other? Do you have so many that the visitor is actually frustrated?

This is the kind of stuff companies spend time evalutating. Coca Cola red, Tide orange, and John Deer Green, these colors are as powerful as the corporate logos. Just as shapes & symbols brand a company &/or products, colors do the same.

If corporate America spends time & money addressing the importance & use of color, can you afford not to?

More reading:

* The use of colour
* ColorMatters.com
* The Psychology of Color in Messages

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