Color and Web Design

Color is one of the most important but least understood elements of web design today. Whether they know it or not, visitors to a site respond to colors and other visual elements on the site on a psychological level. Color affects the emotion of the audience, and emotion drives decision-making. An intrigued visitor is more likely to engage in the goal of your site -- whether it is meant to inform, entertain, or to sell products or services. If the colors are unsuitable, the eye will reject the site and your product may be rejected too, no matter how good it is. A well-considered color scheme is frequently the difference between an okay web site and a great web site. It can also make a site unusable if the scheme used is too outrageous and hard on the eye.

Keep it Simple. A color palette that uses three or fewer overall colors contributes to the clarity of a web page. The reader will be able to find information quicker on a simple site versus a complex site that may make them feel frustrated and lost.

Use White Space! This relates to the previous point of keeping it simple. There are a lot of sites with too much information cluttering up the screen. Your audience will have trouble searching for navigation and the information they need amongst a bunch of clutter. White space balances colors, lets the design breathe and can make a large site feel less complex. If a customer is not overwhelmed, they will stay at your site longer.

Be consistent. Color each element (i.e. links, menu items, instructions etc.) the same on each page so that your audience will instinctively know where to look for information.

Know Your Audience Designers need to know who the target audience before choosing a color scheme. Before you begin your design, you should ask yourself what colors the audience would find compelling and right for your product.

Different colors evoke different emotions in different cultures. This is important to keep in mind on the web if your site has an international audience. For example, in China red symbolizes happiness and good luck, in India it symbolizes purity and in South Africa it symbolizes mourning.

To complicate matters further, many colors have both positive and negative associations in the same culture. In North America, for example, black can symbolize death in some instances and formality in others.

Web Designers should also use different colors if their target audience is a specific gender or age. For example, bright, primary colors like red yellow and blue are great for kid's sites, but if you are designing a site for an audience over fifty you may want to use desaturated, softer colors. Younger audiences also tolerate a black or dark background with lighter text better than an older audience.

In general terms, here are the meanings of a few basic colors: Red Energy, strength, passion, risk, fame, love, -top, take notice Blue Wisdom, protection, spiritual inspiration, calm, reassurance, gentleness, water, creativity,-Depth quality; large companies often use it for their logos. Yellow Sun, intelligence, logical imagination, social energy, cooperation, sunshine, joy, happiness, intellect, energy, cheerfulness Green Healing, monetary success, fertility, growth, personal goals, resurrection, renewal, youth, stability, freshness, nature-Plants and environmental awareness Grey Security, reliability, intelligence, dignity, maturity, conservative, practical

Temperatures of Colors Yes, colors have perceived temperatures! The perception of your site will be affected by your choice of warm or cool colors. Cool colors are water and sky colors like blue and purple; warm colors are on the opposite end of the color wheel: red, orange and yellow. The temperature of a color can affect how your message is perceived. Red text for the word SALE will be perceived as more vibrant and urgent than soft purple text.

If you have a calm and reassuring message you want to get across, (i.e. for a spa) color can affect the tone and mood. For this message, soft browns or deep green would be more calming than an orange or red.

The Importance of Contrast Contrast between colors on a web page can help draw attention to certain elements. Contrast between text and its background is a necessity for legibility. Dark text on a white background is more igible than orange text on a red background.

Different elements on your web page (i.e. the menu and body of the page) should also contrast or they will start to blend together. Contrast helps your audience distinguish between the different points on your site and therefore helps them feel less frustrated and gives them a more enjoyable experience when they visit your site.

Color Design Links

· Here is a link to a great primer on the color wheel and how colors combine http://www.colormatters.com

· Colorscemer at http://www.colorschemer.com is a great color tool. It helps you create color schemes, match colors and determine the color used in graphics.

· Colorimpact (http://www.colorimpact.com) a similar tool to colorschemer. Very useful!

Color is a powerful design tool. Strong reactions to color from the audience of a site can assist in such things as brand confidence, sales growth, and readership. The web designer must match the colors they choose to the message and image they want to get across to the web site's customer.

Colleen Happ designs effective and affordable websites and graphics. Her portfolio can be viewed at http://www.happconsulting.com. She offers free one hour consultations to show how an effective website can benefit your business.

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