Richard of York

Uncategorised Reading Time: 2 minutes

Article by Rebecca Allen

This is a guy who gave battle in vain. He also, incidentally, gave his name and fatal defeat to a mnemonic aid used to remember the colours of the rainbow. What he didn’t do is suggest how to use colours effectively in web design. Read on for 5 useful insights to how colours can help or hinder the success of a website.

Feeling blue

We all associate specific colours with physical objects, as well as abstract ideas and emotions. The red of a stop sign represents danger, the red of a fire means we associate the colour with heat and the colour red is also connected to passion, love, energy and courage. Blue, as an opposing colour, is seen as cooler and calmer. People’s perception of colour is largely subjective but before choosing the palette for your website, it is still worth considering the natural physical and emotional associations of your chosen selection. Without getting into debate on stereotypes, most people would probably agree that a hot pink background might not look quite right on a paintballing company’s website.

Effects on behaviour

Numerous studies have investigated the effect of colours on human behaviour. Some interesting findings include:

–       Red instills excitement in people. It can make people act quicker and feel more powerful. This might explain another finding shedding ‘light’ on links between colours and behaviour (literally); that people tend to gamble more under red light than under blue light.

–       Blue makes people think more before acting.

–       Green improves peoples’ concentration. This is put into practice in Denmark where apparently green tablecloths cover the desks during exams to help students focus better.

In the mix

A website is unlikely to feature just one colour so it is important to consider your main colour, secondary colour(s) and how they can complement each other. Remember to take into account imagery too, which can add a lot of colour and depth to a web page. The simplest combination is probably black and white and whilst black works with the majority of other colours, it is not recommended for use as a dominant colour on the basis that black backgrounds can be difficult to read. Of course, it is not just as simple as choosing colours but more about selecting the right shades and tones to create the overall look and feel of your website.

Audience & usability

According to science, the accessibility of a colour is down to the number of wavelengths it presents. Red has the highest of wavelengths which makes it more difficult to perceive, whereas blue is much easier on the eye. Therefore, different shades of the same colour will vary in how accessible they are visually. Furthermore, certain people may find it easier to see some colours than others. Older people, for example, may be more amenable to brighter colours, whereas children may prefer lighter shades, usability experts suggest.


When people visit your site, they should be able to instantly recognise your brand colours. After all, these colours contribute greatly to what your brand stands for and how it is perceived.

Remember, don’t be defeated like Richard – use colours wisely and you’re on your way to a successful website.

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