If you navigate to Google and complete a search for “Color Psychology” you’ll receive about 604 million results. And many of those results are populated with brightly colored infographics and images detailing exactly what every color means and how they make people feel.
What if we were to tell you that most of that information is incorrect?
Back away from those infographics and stick with us as we explore the psychology of color and how it can affect your website and your brand.
In this post we’re discussing the following:
- What is color psychology?
- The relationship between humans and color.
- Why color choice is vital to your website and your brand.
- How to decide on the right colors for your site and brand.
- The juxtaposition of colors: how they can work together to achieve your desired effect.
Color Psychology and Your Website
What is color psychology?
“Color psychology is the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior,” says Wikipedia.
Unlike what a lot of online information would have you believe, color psychology is not a science. The color red doesn’t always fill us with passion just as yellow isn’t the universal color of happiness.
However, colors definitely influence us: Our moods, our preferences, and our actions can all be impacted by color.
The Relationship Between Humans and Color
When light hits our eyes it’s passed through our retinas and understood as color. Our retinas have two kinds of photoreceptors: rods and cones. “Rods work at very low levels of light. … Rods don’t help with color vision, which is why at night, we see everything in a gray scale.” And “cones require a lot more light and they are used to see color.”
There’s no doubt that “…colors are psychological experiences.” When light hits your eye, these waves are “converted into electrical impulses which pass to the brain—eventually to the hypothalamus, which governs the endocrine glands, which in turn produce and secrete our hormones.” Pretty interesting, isn’t it?
What makes a person feel a certain way about a color?
Diversity is real — look around you. Considering how widely people can differ, is there any surprise that colors don’t have the same effects on everyone?
Keep this in mind when choosing the colors for your website. In order to select the most effective ones, you’ll need to start by identifying and understanding your audience. Here are three things that can influence how your audience feels about different colors.
Did you know that people’s preference for certain colors changes as they age?
Joe Hallock performed a study on color psychology and in it he quotes another scientist named Birren. Birren noted that, “With maturity comes a greater liking for hues of shorter wave length … than for hues of longer wave length.” This means people tend to prefer colors like blue or purple more than colors like red or orange as they age.
Are boys born inherently preferring the color blue? Are girls naturally drawn to the color pink? Hardly!
According to Smithsonianmag.com, “Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I.” And at first, there was no common consensus on what color was better suited for what gender — many publications listed pink as the manlier color since it derived from red.
“Our preference for a specific color can be related to how we feel in any situation, how we want to feel, and even how we remember certain experiences (to name a few),” says Hallock.
Here are the findings from Hallock’s study relating to color and gender.
Looking at the chart we can see that blue is a favorite color among both males and females. However, take a look at purple, a color that only the females preferred.
Does a person’s cultural background inform their color preferences and associations? Absolutely.
For example, in Western cultures, white is a color symbolizing purity or cleanliness. In some Eastern cultures, it’s the color of mourning. Depending on your audience and where your customers are located, you’ll want to be mindful of your color choices. Research the cultural associations of the specific colors you’re interested in using for your brand or site before choosing something simply because it looks good to you.
How to Identify Your Website Audience
We hope that you took the time to work on your ideal customer persona and ideal audience before launching your website. If not, there’s always time to refine and do it now, but don’t delay.
We also recommend using Google Analytics to learn about where your site visitors are geographically located, what devices they use to enter your site, and a variety of other information. Analytics gives you a great amount of insight into the people who traffic your site.
Never used Google Analytics before and don’t have it set up on your website? That’s ok, use this guide and get started with Google Analytics in under a day.
Choosing Colors for Your Website
Now that we understand different factors affecting people’s perception and feelings regarding color, we can start talking about choosing colors for your site and your brand.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Where is my desired audience located?
- What age group am I targeting?
- Am I targeting website visitors or shoppers of a certain gender?
The answers to these questions should help you choose your site colors.
If you are designing a website that sells clothes to kids and pre-teens, opt for brighter colors and a more engaging design. In youth, humans tend to prefer bright colors and this could help you sell more products on your site. This color preference is vastly different from older generations that prefer more subdued blues and softer colors. If you’re in the life insurance business, it doesn’t seem like yellow, orange, or red are the best colors for your website. Choosing colors that your audience isn’t attracted to can lead to lower engagement on your site and fewer clicks.
Test Colors on Your Website
One of the nicest things about websites is that they’re easy to edit and work on nowadays. You don’t need years of schooling under your belt to change a few colors on your site. Any good WebsiteBuilder will give you the option to update colors, usually with just the click of a button.
And chances are, your website won’t be perfectly optimized when it goes live for the first time. This is why we encourage you to perform audits and tests on your website. You always want to know what’s working and what isn’t so you can make any necessary adjustments and get ahead of your competitors.
Here’s a simple test you can run on your website: Updating your button colors.
What’s a button? A website button is usually an HTML element on your website, directly on the user interface, that aims to influence and impact the user experience. Or in other words, they’re the Call-to-Actions you hope your visitors click on. Take a look at a button on Domain.com’s website below, circled in blue.
Pro tip: Want to know where people are clicking most on your site? Try heatmapping!
There are various free and paid heatmapping solutions that you can find by running a quick online search. Heatmapping, quite literally, allows you to see where users are clicking most on your site or how far they’re scrolling by “color coding” your site. It’s a tool that analyzes and visualizes data and layers it over your site (not visible to your visitors) so you can tell what the most important or engaging content on your site is. Keep an eye on your heatmap after updating and testing your button colors so you know which ones work best.
Choosing Colors That Work Together on Your Website
Not all colors play well together. Some colors are complementary, while others don’t bring out the best in one another.
Human brains, interesting things that they are, perceive colors differently based on the colors they’re around. You can dive into that in this article by Canva, where they discuss Henry Matisse, who understood the power and impact colors could have when used together.
Choose The Best, Most Effective Colors for Your Website
Don’t choose the colors for your site based on what you find most attractive and appealing. Chances are, that might not be the same way your audience thinks.
To understand what colors work best on your site, it’s vital that you know your audience and the audience you want to attract.
Use the tips above to create a well-designed site that drives action and performance through use of color.
No website? No problem. Get started with your site today by trying Domain.com’s easy to use WebsiteBuilder.