The Importance of Colour Choice in Web Design

By Rachel Sanders

Whether you have noticed it or not, colours affect your emotions…and sometimes your decisions. The emotional and behavioural impact of colours on humans has been studied by members of several academic fields, especially in psychology and marketing. In advertising and marketing, it is believed that colour choice plays a huge role in consumer decision making, and this is an important piece of information that web designers need to take note of.

Most scientists and researchers believe colours impact our feelings and behaviours because of cultural conditioning. For example, red is associated with danger or alertness in many Western cultures, while green is associated with the environment and cleanliness. colours are also associated with gender. Whether as a result of conditioning or not, women tend to respond well to brighter, lighter hues, while men tend to respond well to saturated, darker hues.

Whatever the reasons, there seems to be something about colours that make us react in very specific ways, and this can be used to the advantage of those selling a product or service on the internet. In a study conducted in 2009 by business and consumer behaviour specialist, Ravi Mehta, subjects were asked to choose between two types of toothpaste. One brand was for cavity prevention and the other was for teeth whitening. The results of the study showed that more people chose the cavity prevention toothpaste when it was paired with a red background and the teeth-whitening toothpaste when it was paired with a blue background.

This observation shows how colour can affect consumer choice. In this case, it seems that subjects associated the colour red with prevention and attentiveness, and the colour blue with freshness and openness. This same observation can be found in the various marketing campaigns used by businesses, in which focus groups and test markets are used to gauge the reaction of advertising campaign designs by the public. Although many scientists still aren’t sold on the idea that colour can dictate human behaviour and emotion, there are too many real-world examples in marketing to ignore it.

Web designers must use this same marketing technique when creating web pages for businesses. It is important to be deliberate about the colours used, because the wrong choice of colours can potentially turn customers away. You should only use a maximum of three colours on your page, to avoid confusion and over-stimulation. These colours should complement one another, as well as the business’ brand. This is especially true for businesses that already have a well-established brand theme.

It is also important to note that colour connotations change, depending on what part of the world you are in. For example, while red often represents danger in the West, it usually stands for good fortune in the East. For more information on the meanings and effects of colours, take a look at the following books.

Colours: What They Mean and How to Make Them, by Anne Varichon

Colour – Messages & Meanings: A PANTONE colour Resource, by Leatrice Eiseman

Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction, by John Gage

About the Author
As a blogger for, Rachel Sanders has a passion for helping potential and current web design students fulfil their education and career goals. Always looking for the latest and greatest in web design news and technology, Rachel also writes about education in general, computer technology and student life. Feel free to leave your comments and questions for her below!


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