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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy mizwizzy's Avatar
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    Red face Psychology of Colour - Are you easily influenced?

    Does colour influence you in Web Design? I have to admit that it fascinates me. I never really fully appreciated just how colour can affect how we react and interact with websites. Do you have favourite colour schemes and why do you stick by them? Do you really believe that colour can make or break a sale? Perhaps it's over-rated, what about those who can't see colour? What then!?

    Really interested to hear your thoughts on this subject guys!

    Hazel

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    Barefoot on the Moon! silver trophy Force Flow's Avatar
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    If the colors of a website clash and don't complement each other, then a design can look a bit odd to me.

    I generally don't design using what would be considered "aggressive" color schemes
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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy mizwizzy's Avatar
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    Yes, I agree Adam - it's the same for me, lots of strange colour concepts out there, the mind boggles to even try to understand how people can choose such radical colours and pair them together!

    I don't think its realistic to stick to a certain colour scheme all the time - in terms of influencing your visitors, I'm amazed at how much thought some designers put into their logos, websites, branding etc and what affect colour can have on people. It's a bit embarrassing to think that we are that susceptible to manipulation really!

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    Barefoot on the Moon! silver trophy Force Flow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy View Post
    I don't think its realistic to stick to a certain colour scheme all the time - in terms of influencing your visitors, I'm amazed at how much thought some designers put into their logos, websites, branding etc and what affect colour can have on people. It's a bit embarrassing to think that we are that susceptible to manipulation really!
    I've seen what google does with some of their A/B testing. They really get into the most minute details--choices between particular shades of color for a toolbar, small button, or tiny icon. It almost seems a bit obsessive

    But, I suppose we're all guilty of that at one time or another for a particular design.
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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy mizwizzy's Avatar
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    Well that's true, sometimes I think it's good to be obsessive but not so much so that you sweat the small stuff, then you know you've gotta reel it back in it a bit!

    Out of curiosity, what's your idea of "aggressive" colours? I read that sometimes your colour preferences are determined by your environment - not entirely sure just how extensive that is but if that's the case I'm totally out of the loop with my blue obsession!

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    ✯✯✯ silver trophybronze trophy php_daemon's Avatar
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    All people are influenced by color, just like all people breath. Even color blind people can see different shades and some color. (There's a little program called Color Oracle that renders the screen in color blind colors - an interesting and useful exercise)

    It's part of user's experience and in extreme cases it indeed, can make or break a sale (rather break). For instance, someone would have to make a really good offer for me to buy from a site that has a black background and white font.

    Other less extreme cases can also make influence. For example, you'd probably not use a pink color scheme on a website selling fishing supplies.

    Most marketers will say that the best color for a "buy" button is orange. Or green for a "download" button. That doesn't necessarily have a big influence on conversions, that is to say no-one will start buying like mad just because they see an orange button, but even a slight increase in conversions will have an impact on the bottom line.

    That brings me to testing. There's a good reason why someone like Google test like mad, and I don't think that's obsessive. The colors will have different impact on different sites, that's why you really need to test to see what works for you.
    Saul

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    Barefoot on the Moon! silver trophy Force Flow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy View Post
    Out of curiosity, what's your idea of "aggressive" colours?
    Probably color schemes with a heavy dominance of shades of blood reds (or darker), oranges, and splashes of black (maybe as a highlight). I can't recall any good specific examples at the moment, unfortunately. The website for the Diablo 2 video game comes to mind, but that's more demonic than aggressive, I suppose.

    On the other hand, I don't see sites with warm or cool colors in the same light.

    I've noticed that splashes of blue in color schemes tend to be quite common.
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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy mizwizzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by php_daemon View Post
    All people are influenced by color, just like all people breath. Even color blind people can see different shades and some color. (There's a little program called Color Oracle that renders the screen in color blind colors - an interesting and useful exercise)

    It's part of user's experience and in extreme cases it indeed, can make or break a sale (rather break). For instance, someone would have to make a really good offer for me to buy from a site that has a black background and white font.

    Other less extreme cases can also make influence. For example, you'd probably not use a pink color scheme on a website selling fishing supplies.

    Most marketers will say that the best color for a "buy" button is orange. Or green for a "download" button. That doesn't necessarily have a big influence on conversions, that is to say no-one will start buying like mad just because they see an orange button, but even a slight increase in conversions will have an impact on the bottom line.

    That brings me to testing. There's a good reason why someone like Google test like mad, and I don't think that's obsessive. The colors will have different impact on different sites, that's why you really need to test to see what works for you.
    Absolutely agree Saul - but it's unsettling to say the least. It's like we're being trained to respond in certain ways to certain colours even though the average person will never truly know that their "choice" whether it be a download or purchase, as you say, was already predetermined by some marketing guru. It has to be admired though in the same breath too.

    There was a test for colour blindness before and I can't for the life of me remember what it was. I know different shades can be displayed but still in terms of web design - this must be extremely difficult and quite admirable really.

    When I first started Web Design and knew nothing about colour schemes, black was where I started off. Now it's like the plague to me but there still are those who are dedicated followers, same with white too - I saw an article posted on a friends twitter feed not so long ago about how effective the use of white space can be on a webpage and how important it is for emphasising layout but it doesn't really seem to be as popular as it once was. Maybe it's making a comeback? I see a lot more colour now than what I remember years ago - or perhaps that's just me. Are web designers becoming more bold with their approach to design, using these "aggressive" colours to make bold statement websites or is there some other underlying psychology involved

    Quote Originally Posted by Force Flow View Post
    Probably color schemes with a heavy dominance of shades of blood reds (or darker), oranges, and splashes of black (maybe as a highlight). I can't recall any good specific examples at the moment, unfortunately. The website for the Diablo 2 video game comes to mind, but that's more demonic than aggressive, I suppose.

    On the other hand, I don't see sites with warm or cool colors in the same light.

    I've noticed that splashes of blue in color schemes tend to be quite common.
    Yeah I'm personally not a fan of dark websites. Seems quite popular with gamers but I guess that's what they're used to as most game footage can be quite gothic or "evil" themed - if that makes sense! I guess there's a bit of colour psychology there too - most gaming websites compliment the gaming environment - stick to what the gamer is used to, no doubt they wouldn't like seeing pastels

    So quite possibly our environment does dictate our taste in colour or perhaps influences us to think in a certain way anyway.

  9. #9
    ✯✯✯ silver trophybronze trophy php_daemon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy View Post
    Absolutely agree Saul - but it's unsettling to say the least. It's like we're being trained to respond in certain ways to certain colours even though the average person will never truly know that their "choice" whether it be a download or purchase, as you say, was already predetermined by some marketing guru. It has to be admired though in the same breath too.
    Hmm, I think it goes both ways. Amazon has started using orange for whatever reason, everyone become accustomed to seeing orange buttons meaning "buy", and next thing you know everyone else is using it. But I suspect surprising testing results on case by case basis.

    If you see certain elements to be of a certain color, you start expecting them to be as such. That's how humans work - you know the sky is blue and you don't expect it to turn purple one day. And when it does turn purple, you become surprised.

    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy View Post
    So quite possibly our environment does dictate our taste in colour or perhaps influences us to think in a certain way anyway.
    It absolutely does. What's more important is that there are different environments and some people react differently to different colors. For example, color red will mean very different things in western culture than it does in China.
    Saul

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy
    Does colour influence you in Web Design?
    Certainly.

    In everything else too.

    Sorry to sound like an ad, but there was a really good chapter about that in the "Principles of Beautiful Web-design" book.

    Or a lot of Datura's old threads, I remember she had a super-detailed thread on colour a couple years ago. I wonder if I can find it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy View Post
    Now it's like the plague to me but there still are those who are dedicated followers, same with white too - I saw an article posted on a friends twitter feed not so long ago about how effective the use of white space can be on a webpage and how important it is for emphasising layout but it doesn't really seem to be as popular as it once was.
    I suspect they weren't really talking about white space in the sense that is was white, just that there was nothing there. Designers usually refer to this as negative space instead of white space to avoid that confusion

    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy View Post
    I guess there's a bit of colour psychology there too - most gaming websites compliment the gaming environment - stick to what the gamer is used to, no doubt they wouldn't like seeing pastels
    Not normally, but I played the game Borderlands a few months back, which is a first person shooter meets RPG kind of game, and that use pastel colors quite a lot, and looks good too!
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by php_daemon View Post
    Most marketers will say that the best color for a "buy" button is orange. Or green for a "download" button. That doesn't necessarily have a big influence on conversions, that is to say no-one will start buying like mad just because they see an orange button, but even a slight increase in conversions will have an impact on the bottom line.
    Daemon, I entirely agree with that, I think we are now conditioned on the web to look for green to download and orange to buy because we've seen it so much. All the big and credible websites will use the same "palette".

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    Hibernator YuriKolovsky's Avatar
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    Black background stands for entertainment, white background stands for work, at least thats the general guideline everyone seems to have adopted, not only in websites but even in electronics and household items.

    Quote Originally Posted by mizwizzy View Post
    It's like we're being trained to respond in certain ways to certain colours even though the average person will never truly know that their "choice" whether it be a download or purchase, as you say, was already predetermined by some marketing guru.
    The reason is even more interesting than that, we as humans can't fully comprehend the environment we live in, what happens is that ever since we were born, we learn clues about our environment, and their meaning, trying to make sense of our world. It's as if we live in a illusion of our own comprehension.

    For example if a person had upside down vision for a long while, using special goggles, his brain would flip the image and he would see the world around him like normal.

    Another example, recently I was playing around with tilt-shift photography where I would make big things look small by faking some of the clues that we used to comprehend the world.
    Interesting point is that if someone had never seen miniature cities they would not recognize the effect.

    By following the motto that "your visitors spend most of their time on other people's websites", webdesigners use our learned information processing skills to present their website in a specific manner, which also explains the common use for blue, which was the original color for links.
    In a way the designers are training us, but it's not the control us, but instead to provide a more meaningful experience, and longer the internet exists, the more meaning colors will have.
    (color blind people substitute other clues in exchange for color.)

    So by living life like we normally do, we have trained ourselves into treating colors like we do, now it's all up to research by looking at the most common websites and the real world for the color meaning's.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy cydewaze's Avatar
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    I'm horrible at picking colors. Things that look good on a color schemer always end up being too dark a background for text. Now I use the schemer that gives a page example, so I can see the horrors of my ways.

    I used to be into really dark pages, because I usually surf late in the evenings (and no, NOT for *that* ), but lately I've been leaning toward lighter pages.

    At the office I hired someone with design and graphics experience, so the burden of coming up with such things is shifted away from me (a good thing) and I can concentrate on the back-end stuff (which I'm only slightly better at, LOL!)
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    SitePoint Member TowerRaven's Avatar
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    Indeed I think colour does have an influence; just watching Darren Brown somewhat gives an idea of how we can be influenced without really knowing it (though not colour related). As well as the orange/blue combo, once you see it, you can't stop unseeing it just about everywhere.

    On the gaming website front, indeed one of my current personal projects is to theme up a clan forum (a gamer myself). Trying to find inspiration on this front is rather difficult, most gaming sites are dark themes (dark-shades, greys, blacks). Probably because its easy on the eyes to a certain degree, in terms of monitor backlighting - and most gaming, and indeed discussion on gaming is likely to take place in the less light hours of the day (evening and night).

    The project is still in the design stage really, while I have a template ready and waiting for some styling already. The colour scheme is the biggest hold up, I've even considered allowing people to go ahead and toggle it as they wish within the single theme, or do two near identical themes dedicated to dark and light options.

    On a personal front, I really like greens - though its quite uncommon as a colour scheme I find.

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    For some reason sites that use a lot of red or green put me off but I'm a big fan of blue and shades of blue like sitepoint uses. I was also a big fan of invisionboards default template too.

    No idea why but blue shades just seem far more pleasing on the eye to me.
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    SitePoint Enthusiast Chronister's Avatar
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    I always pay attention to color when I do anything, even if it's something as mundane as cooking a dish. The more vibrant the colors are, the more likely people will visit my site even if the content isn't necessarily the best out there.

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy mizwizzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by php_daemon View Post
    It absolutely does. What's more important is that there are different environments and some people react differently to different colors. For example, color red will mean very different things in western culture than it does in China.
    Quite true Saul, an interesting angle. Well, let's hope that the environment of our target audience is surrounded by calming positive colours that will trigger sales for us This subject is amazing, there are so many angles that I've never considered before and I don't think that I'll ever reach a point where nothing fascinates me about colour and what affect it can have on us!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaun(OfTheDead) View Post
    Certainly.

    In everything else too.

    Sorry to sound like an ad, but there was a really good chapter about that in the "Principles of Beautiful Web-design" book.

    Or a lot of Datura's old threads, I remember she had a super-detailed thread on colour a couple years ago. I wonder if I can find it.

    I love that book Shaun, I particularly love that chapter too - It's one of the few books I've read that I've enjoyed in terms of the authors take on colour (well, and everything else, it's a great book overall)

    Quote Originally Posted by ScallioXTX View Post
    I suspect they weren't really talking about white space in the sense that is was white, just that there was nothing there. Designers usually refer to this as negative space instead of white space to avoid that confusion
    Re: white space - yes I know but in terms of the colour white - it's interesting in itself. Most websites at least on beginner level that I've seen always either start off with white or black - that's really intriguing to me! Most layout containers I've seen are surrounded by say "white space" rather than well blue or orange or something.

    Quote Originally Posted by YuriKolovsky View Post
    By following the motto that "your visitors spend most of their time on other people's websites", webdesigners use our learned information processing skills to present their website in a specific manner, which also explains the common use for blue, which was the original color for links.
    In a way the designers are training us, but it's not the control us, but instead to provide a more meaningful experience, and longer the internet exists, the more meaning colors will have.
    (color blind people substitute other clues in exchange for color.)

    So by living life like we normally do, we have trained ourselves into treating colors like we do, now it's all up to research by looking at the most common websites and the real world for the color meaning's.
    Do you think it's a good idea to alter colours and their representations on the web? If we become so familiar with certain colours and their associations, should it really be changed? Isn't that just making us a bit more confused or is it healthy to create a new outlook?

    Quote Originally Posted by cydewaze View Post
    I'm horrible at picking colors. Things that look good on a color schemer always end up being too dark a background for text. Now I use the schemer that gives a page example, so I can see the horrors of my ways.

    I used to be into really dark pages, because I usually surf late in the evenings (and no, NOT for *that* ), but lately I've been leaning toward lighter pages.

    At the office I hired someone with design and graphics experience, so the burden of coming up with such things is shifted away from me (a good thing) and I can concentrate on the back-end stuff (which I'm only slightly better at, LOL!)
    lol sure sure - you and your late night prowling, it's all coming out now!

    I do think colour schemes can be really good also, a lot of time saved for me too - nothing worse than getting stuck in a loop with a certain set of colours only to find out a few hours later you were doomed from the get go!

    Quote Originally Posted by TowerRaven View Post
    Indeed I think colour does have an influence; just watching Darren Brown somewhat gives an idea of how we can be influenced without really knowing it (though not colour related). As well as the orange/blue combo, once you see it, you can't stop unseeing it just about everywhere.
    Yes, he's great TowerRaven - We never can truely appreciate the mind and how it works - I also agree that we are influenced by colour whether it's subconscious or not I don't know, I think it's a bit mixed. I mean, I love the colour blue - if I saw a button that said buy in both blue and then red - I think I'd choose my favourite colour blue. That's a conscious decision

    Quote Originally Posted by TowerRaven View Post
    On the gaming website front, indeed one of my current personal projects is to theme up a clan forum (a gamer myself). Trying to find inspiration on this front is rather difficult, most gaming sites are dark themes (dark-shades, greys, blacks). Probably because its easy on the eyes to a certain degree, in terms of monitor backlighting - and most gaming, and indeed discussion on gaming is likely to take place in the less light hours of the day (evening and night).

    The project is still in the design stage really, while I have a template ready and waiting for some styling already. The colour scheme is the biggest hold up, I've even considered allowing people to go ahead and toggle it as they wish within the single theme, or do two near identical themes dedicated to dark and light options.

    On a personal front, I really like greens - though its quite uncommon as a colour scheme I find.
    Yeah it's difficult to try and find a happy medium. I find it hard to stick to a forum theme myself, I don't like offering the choice of changing around but perhaps if you're struggling with choosing a theme you're 100% happy with this is the right option at least for now. As an occasional gamer myself I tend to play in the evening times but I very rarely visit the gaming websites/forums due to the colour scheme being too dark for me - I think including the option to toggle on the light version would be a good idea IMO! See, already colour is playing a part here

    Quote Originally Posted by HAWK View Post
    Yeah, I saw that later on in the evening on SP's main page after I posted this thread, great minds I really liked the colour associations

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    Mcdonalds uses the colors Red and Yellow to get people the heck out of there. I can suggest not using those colors for your website. Your eyes might just bleed!

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    Do you think it's a good idea to alter colours and their representations on the web? If we become so familiar with certain colours and their associations, should it really be changed? Isn't that just making us a bit more confused or is it healthy to create a new outlook?
    Whoa, talk about a great question.
    I do have the tendency to think that more common understanding of suggested meaning is better, but leaving experimentation behind sounds wrong, although if I draw a parallel with written language, if every culture used the latin base of letters, it would be a lot easier to learn foreign languages like chinese (and vice-versa) but would result in less ideas and differences.

    Or for example if every country in the world used the same written language, it would definitely result in less problems for everyone, but also cause less creativity/differences.
    Same happens with colors, it's also a language in a way, and everyone speaks their own.


    To be honest, I don't know, Let's see what others have to say.

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    I like to do a lot of studying in color psychology, and when I teach a class on design I would always bring it up.

    The problem is it's so imprecise. The biggest difference amongst it are between different colors. For example, take the color red. As someone mentioned, it has very different meanings. In the west it's generally associated with anger ("seeing red") and is a very intense, sometimes negative, color. However, in China it represents life and vitality, so it is a very positive color.

    However, even from person to person there can be a lot of differences with color. Some of these responses are instinctual and part of our genes.

    An example of this would be the color blue. Blue, in most people, is an appetite suppressing color. This could be a developed attribute because there is little to no natural food that is blue (mold and stuff is also often blue, which we shouldn't eat), so it's instinctual.

    Likewise, orange is an appetite stimulant in many people, likely because so many orange-ish foods are very nutrient rich (citrus fruits, honey, etc.). I've noticed a lot of fast food places have started adopting orange/brown color schemes, likely for this reason.

    There are also color psychology which is developed individually. For example, if you had a favorite purple teddy bear growing up as a kid, the color purple may become associated with happiness, safety, or comfort... which isn't a traditional response. Or, you may have been attacked by someone wearing a yellow raincoat and it was traumatic, so you begin associating yellow (which is normally a happy color) with fear.

    It's something interesting that I keep in the back of my mind when I'm picking colors, but not something I rely on.

    I generally go with sets of shades that have a specific appeal. For example, I worked on a natural medicine website not long ago. I chose beiges and natural shades of green to get a "natural" effect. Likewise, if I'm working on a website for cutting edge, I'll use lots of darker or unnaturally-vibrant and bold colors to get a more "high tech" feel.

    When considering the effect of a color scheme, versus individual colors, the reaction seems to be more consistent (though not always if you have certain colors that have a very opposing and strong meeting, like red).

  23. #23
    SitePoint Zealot stikkybubble's Avatar
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    Often clients already have a colour scheme that they want to stick with, but I try to balance colours to give a pleasing effect.

    I wrote a blog post about this - I found a really interesting article summarising research on colour associations with reference to web design.

    The link to the original article is at the top of the post - it's a good read but very long. I tried to summarise the main points.

    Colour Associations for Web Designers « Cybertramp Web Design

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    We all do... and so as color-blinded person. Colors in web design influences the Designer's personality, professionalism and creativity. Some designers make websites depending on their mood.

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    If you're really interested in color - theory, psychology, how it relates to art, feeling, religion, philosophy, and so much more, I suggest reading:

    The Art of Color by Johannes Itten (Bauhaus era).

    It's the definitive bible of color theory.


Bookmarks

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