Choosing Website Colors

By July 11, 2015Web Design

It’s often the simple things that can be the most important and the most impactful. The color theme you choose for your website, a task that may seem easy and largely unimportant, will help you communicate your message, create brand awareness, and strengthen the power and effectiveness of your site. Think of it like a good area rug – your color theme can bring all the pieces together.

We can all agree that colors influence us in many ways. From the clothes we wear to the paint on our walls, colors influence our emotions and our state of mind. This directly correlates to your website as your color scheme can influence a potential customer to keep browsing or make a purchase or a call to action. Likewise, the wrong color scheme can cause a potential customer to leave your site after only a quick glance. They might not be consciously aware of it, but the right or wrong colors will influence how long they stay and what they do while browsing.

Contrast Is King

A strong contrast between the text and the page background makes a page stand out. The most common combination (for a reason) is black text with a white background. Other background colors that are pleasing to the eye include grey, black, or dark blue.

However, when selecting colors for your product pages, desaturated colors are better. Regardless of the function of the page, you don’t want your colors to create too little contrast, making it difficult to read and ensuring that nothing stands out to the eye.

Natural Colors

Natural colors are soothing and are often, compared with artificial colors, understated and more professional looking. Combining natural colors will create different emotional responses and you can play with this in order to create the response you desire. Colors, combined with your text and graphic content can make a potential customer excited, confident, inspired, or happy.

Artificial colors like red, blue, or too bright shades can hurt the eyes and push customers away. The color theme should support the content, services, and products – not detract from them.


A good rule of thumb is to choose roughly three colors and then use them consistently throughout your pages. Production 101 will teach you that chromatic harmony is the number one criteria for creating a positive experience and for effectively communicating your message.

Don’t go overboard and use too many colors. Any more than five and the message that the subconscious picks up is inconsistency and will cause your viewers to skip over important content. Plus it just creates a headache.

Effective Versus Ineffective

Because colors influence our thoughts and emotions, their individual impact will vary. Key factors like age, culture, and gender will all play roles in determining the emotional response. Market research is crucial to determine who your buyer persona is. Once you know who your website is targeting and how your website will connect with them, then your color choice will be easier.

Keep in mind that if your buyer personas are young they will be attracted to brighter and more vivid colors while an older buyer persona will appreciate subdued colors. Additionally, research shows that men prefer oranges and blues while women tend to prefer red and yellow. It’s important not to get locked in to a stereotype (like women will love pastels) but research into this area will go a long way to helping you draw people deeper into your website.

Colors And Their Meanings

There are countless associations that we have with color – many of them subconscious. Think about it: a white flag of truce, a black cat, red and purple are associated with royalty, green is the color of money… the list is endless. Colors also have cultural significance. Green would not be associated with money in a country where the currency is multicolored. Knowing your buyer persona inside and out will help you choose colors with positive associations.

Typically speaking, colors have the following meanings:

  • Black: secretive, unknown, hidden, mystery
  • White: pure, perfection, innocence, completion, wholeness
  • Red: energy, passion, action, ambition, determination, anger
  • Orange: social communication, optimism
  • Green: balance, growth, self-reliance
  • Blue: trust, peace, loyalty, integrity, conservatism
  • Purple: intuition, imagination, idealism, structure, ritualistic, addictive
  • Brown: friendly, serious, down-to-earth, security, protection, comfort, material wealth
  • Grey: compromise – being neither black nor white, unemotional, detached

Useful Tools

Websites like ColorJack, which provides various colors based on preset algorithms, and Adobe Kuler, which allows you to input criteria in order to select color combinations, can be invaluable as you experiment and play with your website. We also like DeGraeve Color Paletter Generator – you can scan a favorite picture (ideally one that communicates a similar message as yours) and the tool will extract a color palette from the picture.

Color is more than just an arbitrary or off-hand decision – it’s a form of non-verbal communication. Therefore, the colors you choose will communicate a great deal about your company and your products and services. A little bit of research and a willingness to play, test, and experiment, will allow you to choose a theme that helps your content and graphics to communicate confidence, professionalism, competence, and positivity.