Success (Color Theory)
SOHO It Goes!
Color. It is to our eyes what music is to our ears.
Those of us blessed with vision can barely imagine a
world without color. Colors evoke feelings, and stand
to represent ideas, and so, in web design, as in all
things designed, knowledgeable and appropriate use of
color is critical.
are many issues of color involved in web design. Besides
the psychological aspects of color, one must be sure
that the site is easily readable, and that the palette
used in background, graphics, links and content work
together. And so, we will look at some of the known
psychological qualities of color and how colors relate
to each other, both online and off with plenty of tips
on palette development and web color usage.
is by far the most popular color - conveying peace and
tranquility, harmony, trust and confidence. Luckily
for web designers striving to use the 216 color palette,
there is an overabundance of blues to choose from! Lighter
shades of blue, both solid and textured, make excellent
backgrounds for web sites which are lighthearted and
positive. On the other hand, blue is the worst possible
choice when developing sites for food or cooking because
there very few blue foods on earth and it is known to
be an appetite suppressant!
work well with other pastel and "cool" shades
(like greens), and are an excellent compliment to earth
tones and neutral colors like gray and beige. But be
careful when using orange with blue, because these two
colors vibrate against each other and cause a jarring
is a neutral color which suggests practicality and conservatism,
and alone, it can be tiresome and plain. But as a background
color with graphics which are earthy, like browns and
greens, or blue and pink palettes. Beige is a good color
to use in the background, as it will allow for maximum
readability of content.
is generally considered a mournful, heavy and depressing
color, but in the right context, can be sophisticated
and mysterious. Studies have shown that online reading
can be difficult on a black background, but many sites
have been done successfully using colors which contrast
heavily (white, neon green). Usage of black as a predominant
color should always be carefully considered - if you
are designing a children's bookstore, black is the worst
possible choice, but if the site is a gallery of photography,
black might be an excellent choice... after all, black
is the preferred backdrop for an artist's work. In addition,
a site which is highly technical, or has an underground
feel, would work well in black.
is another conservative color, which depicts stability,
simplicity, and comfort. It can also be considered a
drab color as well, and unless it is used correctly,
can be very boring. Successful applications might include
sepia toned photographs, as well as designs which use
a palette of different shade of brown accented by accent
colors like green and blue, or red and orange. In a
site which depicts the ideas of hearth and home, or
outdoor activities, brown can be a wise choice for graphics.
is a color to be used with care, because it generates
a strong feeling of either positively or negativity
in most people. For some, it is a kind, generous color,
which represents loyalty and intelligence. It is often
a logical choice for financial sites, and represents
fertility, healing and ecology in many cultures. But
keep in mind that for many people, it conjures up imagery
of envy, reptiles and insects, and bodily functions!
You may wish to use green as an accent color only because
as a predominant color it has been known to drive people
away in product design studies. Whatever you do, if
you use green DO NOT closely combine red with green,
as these two colors vibrate against each other and make
readability nearly impossible, as well as being difficult
for the color blind to read.
is the most conservative of neutral shades, and represents
practicality, sadness, security and reliability. It
is a boring color, routine and lifeless. Its often hard
to believe that gray backgrounds were all that web developers
had to work with once! Unless you WANT to convey lackluster
or conservatism in your site, you would do better to
choose another neutral tone like beige or white as a
background. Of course, if gray is used properly in a
palette of cool tones like blues and purples, it can
be quite successful, however staid.
is another color which most people have a strong feeling
towards. It is a pastel, properly used to generate feelings
of romance, nostalgia and daintiness, and it is also
a favorite color for the creative, different and unusual.
If your intent is to stand out and be noticed, lavender
might be just the choice, depending on what your site
is for. It works nicely with other pastels, for a feminine
feel, as well as other cool tones like blue, green and
even as a highlight for neutral gray.
matter how evolved we would like to be, pink, like lavender,
is considered a frilly, tender, feminine color. It can
be used with care on sites for which that feeling is
grandfather of lavender, purple is the color of mystery,
royalty and spirituality. For the unconventional and
creative, it is not only a good choice, but often the
only choice! When used in a background, as with black,
be sure to use a highly contrasting color for content
so that your words are readable.
is a warm color - enthused, vibrant and expansive. If
you want to be flamboyant and get attention, use orange!
As a predominant color, however, it can really grate
on your visitors nerves, so better to use it sparingly,
to highlight certain aspects of your site. Orange would
be a poor choice of background colors (unless you sell
fruit juice), and remember... beware combining blues
with your orange.
is the hottest of all colors, and as such, represents
all things intense and passionate. Heat and fire, speed
and zest, blood and excitement, competition and aggression,
are all feelings and imagery evoked by the color red.
It can be an irritating, restless color though, and
should only be used when you wish to ignite your visitors.
Red makes an excellent accent color, particularly when
used with neutral colors, but clashes with green, blue
and purple. Temper red with other warm tones like oranges,
browns, and yellows, and you could easily make your
site stand up and shout at the world.
is yellow (in our minds at least!) and so with yellow
comes optimism, happiness, idealism, and imagination.
It can be an unsettling color though - which shouldn't
be used unless you wish to convey bright, cheery feelings
in your visitors. If you should decide to use yellow
a lot in your site, it works well as a background color
for easy readability with contrasting colors.
and on its own, white is the color of cleanliness and
purity, youth, simplicity and innocence. White has become
a very popular background color in web sites, because
it offers the best readability onscreen, and as a "non-color,"
just about any palette works well against it.
'Turtle' Parzek is a veteran marketing designer and online
communications consultant who has been working from home
and virtually since 1995. Her business, SOHO
It Goes! (www.soho-it-goes.com) specializes in providing
technology driven design, marketing and communication
services to small businesses and organizations.