Color Theory and UX Design

Adrienne Bryant

Adrienne is the former UX Designer/Project Manager at AndiSites Inc.

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From Adrienne:  Having been in advanced art since 3rd Grade (when I was bussed to the nearest high school just for art class), the color wheel and all of its aspects–complimentary colors, hues, schemes, etc–was an all-too-familiar part of my world. It wasn’t until I studied Consumer Behavior in college that colors became more than something to make a pretty picture with. In UX Design, the meaning of colors can make all the difference.

When you go to paint a room in your house you often think about how the color you choose will affect the mood or lighting in that room. You may paint a gameroom a fun color, but you’re likely not going to paint the entryway by your front door Wolfpack Red (we still love other schools). The same goes for the color scheme of your website.

Color can help elicit a subconscious emotion or feeling from your users. Blue tends to bring feelings of security and trust, while red may influence energy and activity. And while it’s common for us to gravitate towards colors we like personally, it may not be the best for your business. Think instead about the personality and message of your company’s brand and how you want your users to feel when visiting your site.

Here are some examples of color meanings from thinkful.com:

  • Red – energy, power, vigor, leadership, courage, passion, activity, joy, danger, evil, anger, blood, highly visible
  • Orange – cheerful, passion, pleasure, enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, fun, frivolous, flamboyant, crass, low Class
  • Yellow – optimism, childish, freshness, law, education, arrogance, cowardice, illness, betrayal
  • Green – wealth, money, calming, trees, ambition, endurance, healing, calm, generosity, natural, completion, protection, envy, jealousy, immaturity
  • Blue – security, trustworthy, stability, loyalty, wisdom, trust, friendliness, preservation, courage, science, sadness, depression, cold, immoral, staid
  • Purple – magic, mystery, spirituality, the sub-conscious, creativity, dignity, royalty, mourning, cruelty, arrogance, conceit
  • Black – powerful, mysterious, elegance, sophistication, functionality, death, morbid, plague, aloof

Once you have your main color choices, there are a variety of ways to enhance your color palette with different shades, tones, hues, etc. This can be very powerful on your website as you can use certain “action” colors to direct users to specific things you want them to do or areas you want to bring to their attention.

Whichever direction you choose to go, remember that you can help influence the emotional response of your users just by using the right colors.

Happy Coloring!

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