Colors and User Experience

color palette

After being away for nearly three months I decided to finally bring my blog back to life. A few weeks ago when I was working on a website related with traveling a colleague of mine asked “What’s the color for traveling?”. Although I can’t remember the answer to this question I remember another question that came up: “Why is choosing the right color(s) so important and how it affects our experience while navigating through the web?”.

After doing some research and some questions I realized that this color issue is a matter of much more importance. Colors carry a psychological meaning that interferes with our behavior and feelings: colors are able give us a sensation of peace, joy, sadness, cold, hot, etc.

But what this have to do with the colors I choose for my website? I just want it to look great!”.

Imagine that you own a site for selling baby stuff and that your designer comes up with a fabulous design with a color scheme involving black and purple, for example. In spite of being fabulous you wouldn’t want to pick that design for your site, because black and purple are colors that people usually associate with death not with life! So by choosing that design, more specifically that color scheme, you would be passing the wrong emotions to your users, what would lead them to confusion and not trusting your site. So by choosing the right colors you can transmit emotions to users. Emotions that relate to your business, that are convenient for you, etc.

Also through colors you can also transmit a message to your users. Imagine that you choose for your baby stuff website the colors blue, red and yellow. It’s not a very good combination, and the first thing users may think when they go to your website is “This site is so amateurish that I don’t know if I trust these guys…” or “This site is so ridiculous! No way I’m gonna buy these guys something!”.

By now you may already have noticed that all goes down to TRUST. By choosing the right colors (and of course, making a good design) you can make your users trust you.

Another important aspect of colors is that they affect the usability of your website. In terms of readability, if you choose the wrong contrast between the background and your text users won’t be able to read it. Also if you want to emphasize some important section/information on your website you can do it by choosing a color that highlights the content.

For more information about:
Color Psychologyhttp://www.infoplease.com/spot/colors1.html
Website Coloring: http://www.digital-web.com/articles/the_red_queen_color_theory/
Colors in different cultures: http://www.office.xerox.com/small-business/tips/color-guide/enus.html (see comment by Bruno Figueiredo)

Special thanks to José Luís Devezas, Diogo Coelho, Ivo Gomes and Paulo Pereira for giving me their opinions on the matter.

Posted in User Experience | Tagged , ,

Share this post

8 Responses

  1. Great site this susanavilaca.wordpress.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  2. Color is a very broad subject for what I understand and more than a cultural or usability issue it’s a communication issue that’s ignored several times by designers because of their personal feelings towards a specific color scheme which can, or not, be connected with cultural issues.

  3. Nice post.

  4. Rui Marinho

    Great post, added this feed to my favorites 🙂

  5. Very interesting article and at the end I found out I was referred in it, cool! 🙂

    Like I said before, color is everything for me. Definitely the example you gave about the baby products site color scheme narrow’s the idea down. By instinct, I don’t thing a web designer would ever use a color scheme like that, even without understanding colors in depth, but it could happen and it’s good to understand why.

    It all reminds me why web design is an art related subject, not a computer related one! 😉

  6. Hi Bruno! Thanks for your comment! I really didn’t thought of color in a cultural context and it’s very important. That guide from Xerox is very interesting.

  7. Bruno Figueiredo

    When you talk about contrast, you assumed it’s related to colour when it isn’t. Contrast is related to brightness, which is one of the several attributes of colour. When one thinks of colour, usually they think of Hue. Anyway, colour is also very closely connected with culture. One colour can have two entirely different meanings according to the culture it’s used in. Xerox publishes a good guide on that with several examples: http://www.office.xerox.com/small-business/tips/color-guide/enus.html

Leave a comment