The first impression is enormously powerful! Colours are the first thing that a website user sees and they are virtually the silent stimulus of the first impression. Colour is a very tricky thing to explore, simply because they change under different light conditions, there are some discrepancies in perception between different age groups, and nobody really has control over their appearance on computer monitors.
In the 18th century, Goethe said about optical spectra (“Theory of Colours“) that the dark colours are calming, the light colours are exciting and the first colour that comes out of the darkness is the blue colour and the first colour that comes out from the lightness is the yellow colour. These are the main colours, the other colours coming out from those two. It is very important to stress that individual colour preferences, personality and motivation structure have a very significant impact on the perception of colours.
White colour is perceived as the colour of absolute purity, the colour of something abstractive, visual emptiness. The white colour in visual art can be used only when it is located between two aggressive tones. It is used when you need to attract attention (pointers , warnings , advertising). When it is necessary to highlight the most important colour, for instance, the most optimal background for it is white.
I suppose that black is the much loved colour of Henry Ford why would he of said: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black”? Or who isn’t familiar with a little black dress by Coco Chanel? Who doesn’t feel a deep, strong and magic power of black that creates a disturbing sense of uncertainty and gives a feeling of depth. By the way, why do all judges prefer black clothes? Because black is the colour of mastery, domination and reign. Black is colour of the power…
Colours of Nature
According to Max Lüscher (Swiss psychotherapist), the colour perception is a result of human interaction with nature for a long period, so initially, a person’s life was mainly determined by two factors: day – night, light – darkness. Day time – setting up, searching for food. Night time – when all activities are finished, time for relaxation etc. Therefore, navy blue color evokes a night peace and yellow colour - a sunny day. The red colour is of the fire, blood and some situations that require mobilization and action. If you’re interested in your current emotional state, you can take Max Lûscher Colour Personality Test online.
What is colour saturation and what is its influence on user performance on a website? Saturation is the quantity of grey pigment in a color. The more saturated a color is the less grey it has. So, basically, the less saturated colours the more dynamic, playful and catching the user attention, the more saturated the colours then less attention they can grab. So, what is the right colour for your website then? This completely depends on how you want to make use of your website. Here is a very informative article about “How Color Saturation Affects User Efficiency“, so just scan through it, it’s very interesting!
Colour of Success & Colour of Failure
Do you know which colour represented success or which colour failure? Usability geek at IntuitionHQ.com Jacob made a very interesting experiment of finding out which colour represented failure and which colour success. You can see from the post “the User Experience and Psychology of Colour” that 76% of respondents chose green as the colour of success and 88% of respondents chose red as the colour of failure. Jacob has picked such sites Gmail, Twitter and Facebook. All of them very popular sites that put a really serious effort into their design and usability, I am sure they still have professional psychologists and designers working on their sites, so just take this message as a given…
Male or female?
And don’t forget the gender! Who do you want to be your loyal costumers? Male or female? That is important also, because unconscious colour perception is higher among women than men, women react to colours more emotionally. Men are the opposite, they have a greater impact from black and white images.
Perhaps you know everything about colours and their combinations. What if you don’t know? It is quite time consuming to learn colour theory, so just take a chance and use an awesome online Colour Wheel. Just spin it around!
The Final Message
There are not any bad or good colours for websites, there are only unsuccessful colour combinations and some ignorance of users’ preferences. But take it easy, just learn about your target costumers preferences, who they are and what they are all about and customize the color scheme of the website to attract your particular users. Usability testing is the best, most reliable way to know what your users want.
“Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust I