We’ve discussed several factors for online success on this blog before, but today we’re going to be hitting on one that you may not have considered – colours.

We all know that the internet is heavily skewed towards aesthetics. If you have suspect content, you can struggle through, but if your website is an abomination, people will abandon it immediately, even if it contains step by step instructions on how to cure the common cold!

This means that almost everything on your pages has to be on point. Menus, layout, use of pictures, overarching theme – all of these will need to be done well if the website is to climb above its competitors. But you may have overlooked the use of colours. Unless you are going after the black and white mystique, you will be using them, and they can play a much bigger role in how customers react to and utilise your website than you may have thought.
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The Basics


You can run a quick test with those around you to discover the instinctual, “knee jerk” feelings towards colours. Red generally brings up thoughts of passion. Green will spark thoughts of nature, and blue will bring about feelings of calm. But on the flip side, red, green and blue can be linked to anger, sickness and cold.

Understanding the many different interpretations is not something you can realistically hope to achieve. Not only do you not have the time, but nailing down the exact limits to a colour’s individual meaning has concerned psychologists for years, and though they have a pretty good general idea, it’s still not foolproof.

Colour WheelFortunately, a general idea is all you will need to begin with. This infographic breaks down primary, secondary, and even tertiary colours, describing the positive and negative meanings usually associated with them. It also addresses questions over hues, shades, and brightness. This, and a basic understanding of complimentary colours, are all you will need to start making small changes to your websites in hopes of improving conversions and interactions.
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How to implement


When it comes to websites, there are three core issues to consider when making colour decisions – cultural, psychological, and physical.

Physical is the easiest to address. This concerns those that are colour blind, or have any other visual impairment. You want your website to be accessible to everyone, but you should keep in mind that for some, saying something like “For more information, click on the blue square” isn’t an easy task. Work to make sure that the website can work regardless of what level of sight a user may have.

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Cultural factors are easier to nail down accurately than psychological factors are. Just as languages change around the world, so do perceptions of colour. In America, for example, the colour yellow is often associated with cowardice (“Yellow bellied). But in China, it is associated with heroism! In some cultures, black is seen as a mournful colour, best used for funerals, whereas in other countries, white holds that distinction.

So research into such things is necessary. You want to make your website’s colour scheme age, gender and culturally appropriate, in the same way your content and products will reflect these factors.

But as we mentioned, it is when considering the psychological impact of colours that things become murky. The best you can hope for is that you get the intended response from most of the visitors to your website.

First of all, find the colours that match your overall brand image. If you are a law firm, you’ll want colours that convey seriousness and trust. A toy website will delve more into colours that portray happiness and fun. This sets the tone for the overall website, before you lace in specific colours in smaller doses for desired effects.

Sale ButtonsFor example, if you want to alert people to a sale, use red words or banners. Red is an impulsive colour, but it also denotes tension. Subliminally, you are creating the urge to at least check out the sale. The same goes for denoting price drops.

Green can be used to highlight anything eco-friendly, due to green’s associations to nature. Purple is closely associated with royalty and quality, so utilising it around your premium products may be a smart way to go. We could go on, but there are just as many desired outcomes as there are meanings to colours. Hopefully, we’ve brought these considerations to the forefront of your mind, so much so that you will now go off and do your own research into colours and their transferable potential effects on your website.

For more information, try the book Webs of Influence by Nathalie Nahai, which touches on colour psychology in web design, as well as many other influential factors. A preview of it can be found here.

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