Understand the Color Psychology to Enhance User Experience (UX) in Website Design

Colors for User Experience Design*This article is reproduced from my post in LinkedIn Pulse

With the explosion of digital media in recent years, over communication has become a trend and started causing fatigue in the mind of the audience. Billions of brands, trillions of data and countless choices to make – user hardly has time to understand, decipher and analyze the content available to them in the applications or websites. The increased usage of mobile based browsing also limits the content available on the screen. Hence skimming on websites and applications has become the trend; while the focus for attention has shifted to presentation and the ‘perceived’ content value.

Colors have an incredible psychological effect and play a huge role in defining the perception in the mind of the viewer. It also helps in channelizing the user behavior on the content in the application. “Color is ubiquitous and is a source of information. People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.”(Source: Impact of Color on Marketing)

The psychology of colors is one of the most researched topics for the marketers and brand evangelists. It has been put to extensive practice by both big and small brands in an effort to communicate their message effectively to the audience. More often than not, the misunderstanding of the colors results in inappropriate use of color combinations which results in seeding an unanticipated perception in the mind of the user. It is important to understand the logic behind the meaning of a color to deploy it in the right manner.

  • Why Blue is widely used color in Professional world?
  • Why Telecom and Television News companies predominantly use Red as their Logo?
  • Why do Hospitals use Green and White colors?

Understanding the color psychology plays a huge role in designing a good user experience and engaging them with the company messaging and branding. It helps in channelizing the user behavior to make the right impact for your content.

Understanding Colors & Associations:

Each color has a meaning based on the ethnography and preferences of the user. Colors alone may not be able to holistically define the personality, but helps in making snap judgmental calls from the user. It helps in defining the personality elements such as sincerity, excitement, competence, ruggedness, sophistication etc. Every color has positive and negative connotations and when used in right manner will trigger the desired emotion from the user. The meaning for the colors is associated from what we see and perceive in our day-to -day lives.

Psychological Properties of Colors Example:

BLUE – Where do we see it often? Seas, Oceans and Sky (Brings calmness to our feelings)

Positive Messages – Trust, Intelligence, Serenity, Duty, Logic, Coolness, Calm
Negative Messages – Aloofness, Coldness, Unfriendliness

RED – Where do we see it often? Red Signal Lights & Stop Signs (Alert), Blood (Act Quick)

Positive Messages: Energy, Youthful, Physical courage, Strength, Stimulation, Excitement
Negative Messages: Alert, Defiance, Aggression, Revolt, Strain

GREEN – Where do we see it often? Green Plants & Herbs (Nature, Cure) & Green Signal (All Good, Continue)

Positive Messages: Environmental, Nature, Harmony, Refreshment, Rest, Restoration, Peace
Negative Messages: Stagnation, Boredom, Blandness, Enervation

Colors that are not often seen in the nature tend to stand out from the crowd and hence you often find colors like Violet and Pink (as seen in some flowers) been used for creative messaging. Color Orange is generally associated with the feelings from dawn and dusk or fruits and hence may communicate the cheerful emotion. Yellow being associated with the Sun, Land, Yellow Signal, and Highlighter – hence may communicates the warmth and importance tag with it. Each color derives its emotion quotient based on what we see and perceive in our daily lives.

Channelizing Colors for User Experience

Colors help in User Experience design in 2 different ways: 1) Attention Gathering 2) Emotion Trigger.

Bright colors can be used to direct the attention of the user to the desired location on the application. Soft colors can be used in places to communicate the information to the user. The prominence of the color is only based on the background (Contrast effect). Soft colors usually trigger the mental activity while the bright colors tend to initiate the physical emotions from the user.

White background are generally used to enhance the text and image clarity, while a black background can be used to put a spot light on a flagship item. Apple Inc. uses White, Grey and Black cohesively to enhance the classiness of its products and brand image.

Let us understand the channelizing of a user experience with an example. Let us say we want more number of users clicking on a “Continue” button in a “Registration” form.

1) An Orange color “Continue” button in a form with a soft color background will gather attention

2) The “Continue” button will stand out even better when the cancel button next to it is toned down / nullified

3) Now by the changing the color of the button from Orange to Green – this brings a nexus between the Green (Emotion – all good) and the message “Continue”, and hence the chance of click may further increase.

Note: The above example is to give a perspective and is subjective to the type of the application and the preference of the user. It is recommended to do an A/B testing to determine the right colors for the call-to-action buttons.

While colors do play an important role in user journey, it is even more important for the colors to be relevant and consistent with the brand personality – Stay Unique, Stay Consistent, Stay Refreshing.

It is a colorful world but Classiness matter more than the Flashiness to enhance user adoption. Understanding the audience preferences, channelizing the user quickly to the right location in the application or websites and instilling the anticipated emotion become a necessity to stand ahead in this over-crowded digital world.

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