The Science of Colour: How To Effectively Use Colour in Website Design

The Science of Colour: How To Effectively Use Colour in Website Design

15/09/20 | Rebecca Dudley

We live in a colourful world. The sky above us is blue, or if you live in the UK, it’s grey (a large portion of the time anyway). The grass beneath our feet is green, and our houses are full of so many different shades of colour, depending on what stuff we own, our personality, our likes, dislikes, preferences and taste. The walls may be purple and our clothes black.

Colour is ubiquitous. 

Colour affects us in various ways. It can sway our attitude, change our mood, influence our emotions and our behaviours. For example, do you feel a sense of being serenely calm when amongst luscious green fields and clear blue skies? On the other end of the scale, do you feel a pang of panic when the traffic lights turn red as you’re driving? These are just some of the ways in which colour affects our human psyche on a daily basis. It is also referred to as the ‘psychology of colour’.

Marketers have been harnessing the ‘psychology of colour’ to influence human behaviour for decades. Have you ever wondered why most companies choose the colour blue in their branding and logo design? Or, have you wondered why some businesses decide to only use reds and oranges sparingly in, for example, their website design?

image of muliple colours bursting out from a mobile phone

What is colour psychology?

Let’s address the big colourful, metaphorical ‘elephant’ in the room, and answer the question: what is colour psychology? This is a study that looks into how different colours determine human behaviour. Different colours have different effects on human behaviour, and certain colours can elicit different reactions.

In advertising and marketing, colour is used to evoke emotional reactions. Marketers have realised that they can use the science of colour to their advantage in their branding, advertisements and website design. 

If you simply adjust the colour in your website design, or perhaps change the colour scheme of your branding, logo design or wider advertising and marketing efforts, you can greatly affect drive and affect human behaviour, such as increasing conversion rates and spending, or perhaps instil a feeling of trustworthiness.

Why is colour important in marketing?

According to a study by Satyendra Singh, it takes a mere 90 seconds for a customer to form an opinion about a product, and around 62-90% of that is determined by its colour. This shows how critical colour is. Choose the right colour and you can increase sales, choose the wrong one and you’ll have difficulty selling your product.

Using the right colours, you can win.

Where should you use colour in your website design?

As colour is ubiquitous, how should you use it in your marketing and website design? Ideally, you should use colour throughout your website. By website design, we mean the colour scheme of your website; this includes graphics, headings, borders, backgrounds, buttons and any popups.

Throughout your website design, and indeed wider marketing efforts, you should analyse how, why and where you use colour. What do the colours you use to convey to visitors or potential customers? What colour(s) are you using in your CTA (call to action) buttons? What colour are your font and headings? What colours stand out on the landing pages?

If you feel that the colours you’re using are communicating the wrong message, or perhaps conveying the wrong feelings: change them. 

Let’s delve a little deeper into using colour psychology in your website design.


How to effectively use colour in your website design:

1. Consider your client base – who makes up the majority of your customers?

Is it predominantly women that buy your products? Or, perhaps it’s people aged between 18 – 25 who tend to browse your website and use your services?

Depending on the gender or age of your audience, this could affect the colour scheme you use. According to previous studies, typically, women prefer the colours: blue, purple and green. With their least favourite colours being orange, brown and gray. On the other hand, it states that men prefer blue, green and black, with their least favourite colours being purple, orange and brown.

With this in mind, do the colours on your site suit the preferences of your customer base? If they don’t, ask yourself why not? While it is tempting to design a website with colours we like, it is more beneficial to keep the user, or customer, at the centre of your choices. 

2. Cultivate trust by using blue

The colour blue is one of the most popular colours (and for a very good reason!), and it is also the most used colour by businesses across the world. From Barclays Bank to Facebook, Twitter, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, Nivea, Samsung, and many more!

The psychological effects of the colour blue are clear; it conveys a subtle message of trustworthiness and serenity. This can be used to your advantage in your website design, and particularly on landing pages. As blue gives a feeling of trust, it is used by a lot of the major banks, as well as the biggest social media network in the world: Facebook.

Interestingly though, the colour blue should never be used for any business within the food industry. In this context, blue is often associated with eating poison, according to evolutionary theory, as there aren’t many blue foods – blueberries are an exception! Blue is an unappetising colour. Cheekily, diet-related businesses will use blue plates to successfully prevent dieters from eating more as the colour blue is known for suppressing appetite and reducing hunger.

3. Yellow is usually used for warnings (…and happiness!)

The colour yellow is used as a warning, hence the colour of warning signs, traffic signals, and more are in yellow. In nature (think: wasps and bumblebees) this also runs true, where their colour displays a warning signal, if ignored, you will be stung!

Alongside being used for warning signs, the colour yellow also denotes happiness. Often brands and businesses will use the colour yellow to highlight how they are ‘fun’ and ‘friendly’. This colour suggests playfulness as it stimulates the brain’s excitement centre.

The colour yellow may also be related to happiness because colour psychology is closely linked to memories and experiences. For example, if a person has a good experience eating in a fast-food restaurant with yellow arches, then the yellow colour can cause joy by memory association.

4. Green is ideal for outdoor industries and inspiring creativity

As you may expect, the colour green is associated with the outdoors, nature, the environment and eco-friendliness. Compared to any other colour, green is also one that helps improve creativity.

Green is also an ideal choice for your call to action buttons. We remember things that stand out. In the science of colour, this is known as the ‘isolation effect’, and it occurs when we focus on an item as it is the only one of that particular colour. 

5. Create a sense of fun and impulse with orange

The colour orange is one that conveys a sense of urgency and it makes messages more noticeable and actionable. Orange is a loud and warm colour, often associated with fun, being active (a lot of sports teams use orange), and a feeling of togetherness. 

While it is associated with being fun, it can also be an overwhelming colour and therefore should be used sparingly. Yes, you want to use it to draw attention to something, but using it too much will overwhelm the message. In addition, orange is also seen as ‘cheap’ – that is why some of the low-budget airlines will use this colour in their branding.

6. For luxury or value, use black

Black is often associated with elegance, exclusivity, glamour, sophistication and power. The darker the tone on a website, the more luxurious it feels. For high-end designers and e-commerce websites, this is exactly the feel they want to create, so using black works perfectly.

7. Make your CTAs a bright colour

Calls to actions that are in bright primary and secondary colours (red, green, orange, yellow) are the highest converting. Opting for a darker colour such as black, dark gray, brown or purple, have the lowest conversion rates. Some of the best conversion rate colours are deemed the ‘uglier’ ones such as orange and yellow. This is believed to be because anti-aesthetic colours capture attention.

8. White conveys spaciousness, use it

Whether you believe it’s a colour or not, white space is a powerful colour to use in your website design. Most well-designed websites use plenty of white as a background colour. It creates a sense of freedom, spaciousness and breathability. One of the most popular and used websites around the world (Google) has a white background.

The internet is a colourful place, and a lot can be accomplished with the right use of colour. How are YOU using colour in your website design and wider marketing strategies? Are you taking full advantage of the psychology of colour? If not, we can help.


Contact Active Internet Marketing

If you’re interested in developing your website design with colour psychology in mind, whether that’s to improve conversion rates, or create a sense of trustworthiness, amongst many other reasons, you can speak to our friendly team by calling 01604 765 796. Alternatively, fill out our online enquiry form and someone from Active will be in touch very soon.