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The Psychology Behind Colour in UI/UX Web Design

The Psychology Behind Colour in UI and UX Web Design

Key takeaways:

  • Colour psychology studies the impact of colours on human behaviour, emotions, and perceptions.
  • Using the right colours in your web design can boost engagement and conversion rates.
  • Designers must be careful with generalisations, as colour-emotion associations can differ across cultures.

In today’s dig­i­tal age, cre­at­ing an effec­tive user inter­face (UI) and user expe­ri­ence (UX) is crit­i­cal for the suc­cess of any dig­i­tal product.

UI and UX design don’t just make web­sites and apps visu­al­ly appeal­ing but also play a sig­nif­i­cant role in ensur­ing that users can nav­i­gate these prod­ucts with ease and accom­plish their desired tasks. Since these desired tasks (e.g., con­ver­sions) typ­i­cal­ly gen­er­ate cash or new leads for busi­ness­es, web­site own­ers should pri­ori­tise UX and UI if they want to succeed.

Though numer­ous fac­tors deter­mine the suc­cess of UX and UI designs, this arti­cle will focus on one impor­tant one: colour.

Colour is one of the most fun­da­men­tal ele­ments of design­ing dig­i­tal prod­ucts because it can impact users’ emo­tions, deci­sions, and behav­iour. Thus, it’s extreme­ly impor­tant for UX and UI design­ers to under­stand the psy­chol­o­gy of colour and use it effectively.

In this arti­cle, we’ll explore what is meant by the “psy­chol­o­gy of colour” and pro­vide tips for using colour effec­tive­ly in dig­i­tal products.

The basics of colour psychology

What is colour psychology?

Colour psy­chol­o­gy is a fas­ci­nat­ing field of study that explores the impact that colours can have on human behav­iour, emo­tions, and per­cep­tion. The effects of colour can be sur­pris­ing, even extend­ing to our sense of taste!

How­ev­er, the impact of colour on an indi­vid­u­al’s per­cep­tion is not always straight­for­ward, as cul­tur­al and per­son­al fac­tors can influ­ence how colours are interpreted.

What is colour psychology in web design?

When colour psy­chol­o­gy meets web design, it’s some­times called “colour the­o­ry.” In this field, a set of prin­ci­ples is used to under­stand and apply the use of colour so that user inter­faces are as effec­tive and engag­ing as possible.

UX and UI design­ers will study the prop­er­ties of colour, includ­ing hue, sat­u­ra­tion, and bright­ness, and how they inter­act with one anoth­er to cre­ate visu­al hier­ar­chy, empha­sis, and con­trast. Colour the­o­ry also explores how colours can be used to con­vey emo­tions, moods, or mes­sages to users and how that can affect user behav­iour and perception.

Why is colour psychology important in web design?

Hav­ing a thor­ough under­stand­ing of colour psy­chol­o­gy can have sev­er­al pos­i­tive results for businesses:

1. Aesthetics

A key com­po­nent of UX and UI web design is cre­at­ing visu­al­ly appeal­ing and effec­tive inter­faces. Under­stand­ing colour the­o­ry is essen­tial to achiev­ing this as it can help cre­ate a visu­al­ly appeal­ing web­site. Prop­er use of colour com­bi­na­tions, such as com­ple­men­tary or anal­o­gous colours, can cre­ate a har­mo­nious and pleas­ing visu­al expe­ri­ence for users.

Aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing web­sites are more like­ly to be enjoy­able and there­fore offer users a pos­i­tive experience.

2. Brand personality

By apply­ing colour the­o­ry prin­ci­ples, design­ers can cre­ate har­mo­nious colour schemes that reflect a brand’s iden­ti­ty. Whether a busi­ness wants to express a sophis­ti­cat­ed, fun, or seri­ous per­son­al­i­ty, colour the­o­ry is essen­tial to get­ting this across effectively.

3. Assist users

Cor­rect use of colour can help high­light impor­tant infor­ma­tion on web­sites and guide users through the inter­face. Design­ers can also use colour to cre­ate a sense of hier­ar­chy, mak­ing it eas­i­er for users to nav­i­gate through the inter­face and find the infor­ma­tion they need.

4. Accessibility

As well as guid­ing users through inter­faces, design­ers have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to con­sid­er acces­si­bil­i­ty for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. Colour the­o­ry is essen­tial in ensur­ing that web­sites are acces­si­ble to users with visu­al impair­ments, and prop­er use of colour con­trast can improve the read­abil­i­ty of text.

By using con­trast­ing colours or bright hues, design­ers can make spe­cif­ic ele­ments stand out from the rest of the inter­face, mak­ing them more notice­able and acces­si­ble to the user.

5. Increase conversions

By select­ing the opti­mal colours for but­tons, design­ers can help cap­ture the atten­tion of users and guide their focus towards key ele­ments such as CTAs, icons, or head­ings. This is essen­tial for online busi­ness­es as the effi­ca­cy of but­tons can great­ly affect con­ver­sion rate.

6. Recognition

A con­sis­tent colour palette that aligns with the brand’s val­ues and per­son­al­i­ty can help cre­ate a mem­o­rable and recog­nis­able brand iden­ti­ty. For exam­ple, Face­book’s use of blue and white has become syn­ony­mous with the brand, mak­ing it instant­ly recognisable.

In sum­ma­ry, colour is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of UI and UX web design, as it plays a vital role in attract­ing users, con­vey­ing emo­tions, encour­ag­ing con­ver­sions, and pro­mot­ing accessibility.

So, now you know how help­ful colour can be. But how does it achieve all these results – and how can you achieve them too?

How can colours influence emotions and buying decisions?

7 examples of colour associations

The fol­low­ing are exam­ples of the asso­ci­at­ed feel­ings toward dif­fer­ent colours and how they may be har­nessed in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing to achieve busi­ness goals:

Red is com­mon­ly asso­ci­at­ed with strong emo­tions like pas­sion, love, and anger. In dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, red is often used to cre­ate a sense of urgency or to draw atten­tion to impor­tant ele­ments on a page. For exam­ple, a red “Buy Now” but­ton can cre­ate a sense of urgency and encour­age users to make a purchase.

Blue is typ­i­cal­ly linked with calm­ness, trust, and secu­ri­ty. Across dig­i­tal prod­ucts, blue is often used to cre­ate a sense of trust or to con­vey a pro­fes­sion­al image. For exam­ple, a bank or finan­cial insti­tu­tion might use blue to con­vey a sense of sta­bil­i­ty and security.

Green is con­nect­ed with nature, growth, and wealth. When green is used in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, it’s typ­i­cal­ly been select­ed to con­vey a sense of health, well­ness, and sus­tain­abil­i­ty. For exam­ple, a com­pa­ny that sells organ­ic prod­ucts might use green to express a sense of envi­ron­men­tal responsibility.

Yel­low is com­mon­ly linked with hap­pi­ness, opti­mism, and cre­ativ­i­ty. Yel­low is often used by web­sites to cre­ate a sense of excite­ment or to draw atten­tion to spe­cif­ic ele­ments on a page. For exam­ple, a yel­low “New!” ban­ner can draw atten­tion to a new prod­uct or feature.

Orange is typ­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with warmth, enthu­si­asm, and ener­gy. So, orange can be used to cre­ate a sense of excite­ment or to con­vey a play­ful image. For exam­ple, a com­pa­ny that sells toys or chil­dren’s prod­ucts might use orange to cre­ate a play­ful and fun image.

Pur­ple is often linked with roy­al­ty, lux­u­ry, and cre­ativ­i­ty. In dig­i­tal prod­ucts such as web­sites, pur­ple is often used to con­vey a sense of lux­u­ry or sophis­ti­ca­tion. For instance, a high-end fash­ion brand might use pur­ple to express a sense of exclu­siv­i­ty and luxury.

Black is com­mon­ly asso­ci­at­ed with sophis­ti­ca­tion, pow­er, and ele­gance. In this way, busi­ness­es can use it to con­vey a sense of ele­gance or a high-end image. For exam­ple, a lux­u­ry car brand might use black to con­vey a sense of pow­er and sophistication.

By under­stand­ing the basics of colour psy­chol­o­gy, UI and UX design­ers can choose colours that align with the intend­ed mes­sage or emo­tion they want to con­vey in their dig­i­tal products.

How­ev­er, not every­one has the same colour associations.

Colour perception can vary across cultures

Due to dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al asso­ci­a­tions with colours, not every­one will make the same ‘colour-feel­ing’ associations.

For exam­ple, in West­ern cul­tures, red is often asso­ci­at­ed with love, pas­sion, and anger, while in some Asian cul­tures, red is asso­ci­at­ed with good luck, wealth, and hap­pi­ness. Sim­i­lar­ly, blue is often asso­ci­at­ed with trust and secu­ri­ty in West­ern cul­tures, but in some Mid­dle East­ern cul­tures, blue is asso­ci­at­ed with mourn­ing and sadness.

Giv­en that colour asso­ci­a­tions can vary, UX design­ers need to be aware of this when choos­ing colours for dig­i­tal prod­ucts. Addi­tion­al­ly, they must take the time to test their designs to ensure they are effec­tive and appro­pri­ate for their intend­ed audience.

Top tips for using colour psychology in UX and UI design

If you want cohesive branding

Design­ers should use con­sis­tent colour schemes across dif­fer­ent pages and inter­faces so that they can estab­lish a cohe­sive and recog­nis­able brand. This will help users iden­ti­fy and remem­ber it. A colour palette typ­i­cal­ly includes a pri­ma­ry colour, sec­ondary colour, and accent colours.

If design­ers want to ensure con­ti­nu­ity and cohe­siv­i­ty, they might ben­e­fit from cre­at­ing a style guide. A style guide is a doc­u­ment that out­lines the rules and guide­lines for using your brand’s visu­al elements.

It should include infor­ma­tion on your brand’s colour palette, typog­ra­phy, and any oth­er design ele­ments that are spe­cif­ic to your brand. This ensures that every­one on your team is on the same page when it comes to branding.

Expressing brand personality

Before design­ers start work­ing on a com­pa­ny’s web­site design, it’s impor­tant to have a good under­stand­ing of the com­pa­ny’s val­ues and per­son­al­i­ty. Doing ini­tial research into the busi­ness’s ethos, goals, and iden­ti­ty will help to cre­ate a design that aligns with that.

While design­ers should keep colour psy­chol­o­gy in mind when try­ing to express cer­tain brand per­son­al­i­ties, they need to remem­ber cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences. Due to the dif­fer­ence in colour asso­ci­a­tion across cul­tures, design­ers should be aware of these when brands are try­ing to con­nect with spe­cif­ic audi­ences and markets.

Guiding users through interfaces

Colour can be a pow­er­ful tool for cre­at­ing visu­al hier­ar­chy and guid­ing users through inter­faces, so design­ers should con­sid­er their use of colour for nav­i­ga­tion­al elements.

For instance, design­ers can use colour to dis­tin­guish between dif­fer­ent ele­ments, such as head­ings, sub­head­ings, and body text. They can also use colour to high­light impor­tant infor­ma­tion, such as calls-to-action or error mes­sages, mak­ing them more notice­able and acces­si­ble to the user.

Ensuring accessibility

When think­ing about acces­si­bil­i­ty, design­ers should pay atten­tion to colour con­trast as it can great­ly affect the expe­ri­ence of peo­ple with visu­al impair­ments. Design­ers can use tools like WebAIM’s colour con­trast check­er to eval­u­ate the colour con­trast and ensure that it meets acces­si­bil­i­ty requirements.

Some design­ers may use colour alone to con­vey impor­tant infor­ma­tion, such as indi­cat­ing required fields on a form or high­light­ing errors. This can be prob­lem­at­ic for users who have colour blind­ness, so it’s impor­tant to use oth­er design ele­ments, such as text labels or icons, to con­vey mean­ing instead.

Poor colour hier­ar­chy can also be an acces­si­bil­i­ty prob­lem. If a web­site has too many colours or if colours are used incon­sis­tent­ly, it can be con­fus­ing for users with cog­ni­tive or visu­al impair­ments. So, it’s best to use a clear colour hier­ar­chy for max­i­mum ease of use.

5 best practices when using colour in UX and UI design

  1. Use colour palettes that reflect the brand’s per­son­al­i­ty and identity.
  2. Avoid too many colours or con­flict­ing colour combinations.
  3. Use white space to bal­ance the use of colour.
  4. Inte­grate proven colour the­o­ries to influ­ence the emo­tions of users and their asso­ci­a­tions with the brand or interface.
  5. Test and iter­ate colour choic­es to ensure they have the desired effects on users.

By fol­low­ing these tips and best prac­tices, design­ers can cre­ate more acces­si­ble, engag­ing, and effec­tive inter­faces that cap­ture users’ atten­tion and help busi­ness­es achieve their goals.

If you want some help improv­ing your web­site’s use of colour, get in touch with pur­ple­plan­et, and our expe­ri­enced team of design­ers will assist you in enhanc­ing your site.

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