Web Design Basics: Theory of Colors

Our world is filled with color and it might be hard for some to imagine a world without color – whether it’s the majestic blue of a clear spring sky, the vibrant red of a Macintosh apple or the cold and dreary grey of a waiting room. The meaning of colors can have many variables between cultures, genders, age, emotional states, etc. Colors can have a profound effect on us, both psychologically and in some cases physically, and these effects are often experienced with a high degree of universality across many different cultures and geographies.

The Theory of Color

For its often explicitly expressive qualities, color is one of the most powerful elements used in visual presentations, advertisements or just to affect specific moods. Psychologists have actually found that  can directly affect a person’s acceptance or rejection of a certain product or service about 60% of the time. Understanding the correct use of color, its impact on our moods and emotions, is an essential way of communicating to a target internet audience in a very powerful way. People are actually capable of distinguishing thousands of colors that vary from each other, and though colors can have a myriad number of symbolic meanings, colors do have general representations and can produce common and frequent responses or effects.

The Grand Color Scheme

• Red – produces some of the strongest reactions in most people, which include strength, aggression, authority or excitement. It’s been known to increase heart rate and energy levels.

• Yellow – can have a range of feelings from happiness, cheerfulness, enthusiasm and optimism to fear and anxiety.

• Green – is often considered balanced and can produce a refreshing or soothing feeling; it’s also commonly associated with symbols like peace, luck, envy and fertility. 

• Blue – has actually been proven to produce calming chemicals within the body and often invokes feelings of dependability, loyalty, things that are logical, focused, calm and soothing in most people; though it can actually represent cold and distant feelings in others.

• Orange – is often associated with comfort, warmth, energy and flamboyance.

• Purple – is typically associated with loyalty, royalty, wisdom and mysticism, but because it exists between the energy of red and the serenity of blue, it can provoke stark feelings of introspection and even uneasiness.

• White – is associated with purity, cleanliness and safety.

• Black – like red, can be very powerful, strong, authoritative and sometimes represent overwhelming emotions of dread or mourning.

Color and Web Design

Internet is certainly no exception to this rule, which is why color has become such an integral factor in web design. Since color can impact the emotion of the viewer, website design and presentation can be a critical factor in determining frequent and repeat visitors. If colors are not coordinated, too outrageous or just unsuitable, visitors will likely outright reject the website regardless of the content, product or service the site has to offer. 

Vibrant colors are suitable for certain sites depending on the product or service they provide. On others, dark colors might be suitable, especially if the site has an important message to relay because darker shades tend to sooth or relax the visitor, which allows their mind to focus on other things. Contrast between the text and its background is also important. Bright text on a dark background is generally less appealing than dark text on a lighter background. Matching colors is also essential. Black, brown or dark blue text on a white background is more legible than green text on a blue background or orange text on a red background.

Trust the Theory

Trust the theory of color for your web design and choose colors according to a color principal, at least to get a general foundation, and then adjust as needed. Following the basic color guidelines will save tons of time, frustration, enhance your design skills and allow you to see color in more refined, professional, and even scientific ways.

Guest article by Chris Pentago, marketing consultant of NetShift Media, Kamloops-based Web Design agency.