Zoda Design Blog
How To Use Color To Enhance Your Website
People are physically, psychologically, and socially influenced by color. Color has been found to have connections to health and it can help set the mood through which your website is seen.
Color communicates meaning and so we need to be conscious of what meaning we’re conveying when we choose to use one color over another. It’s not enough for a designer to use a color simply because he or she likes that color. Color is a tool in the designer’s toolbox much the same as a grid or whitespace and it’s important to understand how to use that tool.
The first and perhaps most important thing to understand about the meaning of color is that there is no substantive evidence that support a universal system of color meaning. It’s not that colors themselves have specific meaning, but rather that we have culturally assigned meanings to them.
While some color symbolism exists globally (red as the color of a stop sign, yellow for caution), color symbolism tends to be more common within a given culture than across different cultures (white is used for weddings in Western cultures and for funerals in Eastern cultures).
Even within a single culture individual differences will exist. You and I will not necessarily be affected in the same way by seeing the same color.
The above means that it’s important to understand who your target audience is and how your audience attaches meaning to color. Again it’s not that a color has a specific meaning on its own, it’s that we’ve culturally assigned meaning to colors. Keep that in mind as you read some of the specifics about the colors mentioned below.
Warm Colors: For the sake of simplicity let’s define warm colors as red, orange and yellow. These are the colors of fire. They radiate warmth. Warm colors are more often associated with passion, energy, impulsiveness, happiness, coziness, and comfort. They draw attention and have the advantage of being inviting and harmonious.
Cool Colors: Again for the sake of simplicity let’s define cool colors as green, blue, and violet. These are the colors of water. Cool colors are more often associated with calm, trust, and professionalism. The are also associated with sadness and melancholy. The have the advantage of being professional and harmonious, but can also turn people off by the coolness they radiate.
Red: is the color of fire and blood. It’s emotionally intense. Red is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination, action, confidence, courage, vitality, passion, desire, and love. It can enhance metabolism, increase respiration, and raise blood pressure. Red has a high visibility and advances to the foreground. It is often used for buttons in order to get people to take impulsive action.
Yellow: is the color of the sun. Bright yellow attracts attention, though it can also be distracting when overused. Yellow is associated with joy, happiness, wisdom, and intellectual energy. It stimulates mental activity and generates muscle energy. Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness and is often used to evoke pleasant feelings. Shades of yellow can become dingy lessening the pleasing effect.
Blue: is the color of the sky and the sea. It has the opposite effect of red and slows metabolism, breathing, and heart rate. It’s seen as a masculine color. Blue is associated with trust, loyalty, wisdom, intelligence, expertise, confidence, stability and depth. It creates a calming effect, suppresses appetite and has been considered to be beneficial to both body and mind. Blue is often used for corporate sites given the previously mentioned associations.
Orange: combines the energy or red with the happiness of yellow. It’s not as aggressive as red and calls to mind healthy food (citrus). . Orange is associated with joy, sunshine, the tropics, enthusiasm, happiness, fascination, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, stimulation, and strength. It can increase appetite and evokes thoughts of fall and harvest.
Green: is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, hope, freshness, and fertility. In countries with green money such as the U.S. it evokes thoughts and feelings of financial wealth. Green is associated with healing, stability, endurance, harmony, safety. life, and well being. It can sometimes signify a lack of experience and is often used to indicate the safety of drugs and medical products in advertising.
Purple: combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. It conveys wealth and extravagance and is seen as the color or royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic. Light purple is seen as feminine and purple is a popular color with children. Purple occurs less frequently in nature and some may consider it artificial. In Catholic cultures it is representative of death and in some Islamic nations it is associated with prostitution.
White: is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, virginity. It usually has positive connotations and is seen as clean and safe.
Black: is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery. It denotes strength and authority, is seen as formal and elegant, and brings forth feelings of fear and the unknown.
Gray: is the color of sorrow, detachment, and isolation. It connotes responsibility and conservative practicality. It’s a neutral color and creates a non-invasive feeling. It’s associated with security, maturity, and dependability. It can be used to reduce the intense energy of another color and to emphasize a willingness to comply. Some people who prefer gray many be seen as the lone wolf type or narrow-minded.
Brown: is the color of the earth and tends to blend into the background. It’s associated with material things, order, and convention. It’s connection to the earth gives it stability. Brown can convey a solid and wholesome feeling.
The following articles offer additional information about the possible meaning some will associate with a given color.
- Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color
- Color and Advertising
- Color Meaning
- Color symbolism, color and personality, gemstone color & meaning
- Color: Meaning, Symbolism and Psychology
- The meaning of colors
- Color Meanings in Dreams
- Understanding the Meaning of Colors
- Color Psychology and Color Meaning
Owner & Web Developer
Jessica Kelley is a web developer from Flint, MI, and is also the president/owner of Zoda Design. She has a Bachelor's degree in education from Eastern Michigan University, and a Masters of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University. She has been doing web design as a hobby since 1999 and finally decided to do it professionally in 2012. What to chat? Shoot her an email.