Website Design Guidelines for ROI - Use of Color

By Gregory Smyth

Color is one of the most primal elements of a website's look - but unfortunately, also one of the elements that is chosen most on an ad-hoc basis. The colors you choose should speak to your niche, your company's personality and to your target customer. Some of the worst mistakes in website design are in the realms of color choice. We look at how to use this powerful weapon for good, instead of evil!

To start with, it is important that your online marketing agency, as well as your website design team, have an understanding of the limitations of color in an internet environment. Colors will look slightly different on every display - Mac almost always display colors lighter, and older monitors won't render all the intricacies of your company colors. Also, the Pantone colors that you use in your logo and corporate materials almost certainly have values best for printing (they are in CMYK), rather than RGB values, which approximate color better on a screen. You won't be able to have your exact logo colors, so look at the colors broadly instead of in detail.

The Web-safe palette of 216 colors has long been used in website design (although all rules are made to be broken!). Your internet marketing team can get inspiration, using web-safe colors, from a variety of color palette sites or by Googling '216 web safe colors'. Other basic guidelines include using a substantially lighter background than the text for the majority of your copy (it is difficult to read otherwise), and using bright colors sparingly. Bright colors create a fabulous visual effect, but are only useful where you need to draw attention, such as at your offer or to lead customers to a specific action.

There is no right or wrong color scheme, or even one that spells out conversions or web marketing strategy success. However, there will be colors that better reflect your brand, and colors that will better speak to your customers.

Black, and dark colors, make your website design feel powerful and sophisticated. This is also true of dark blue, which makes businesses seem dependable. Blue is actually said to be the favorite color of 80% of men and 50% of women in the US, and where it ranges more to the middle hue value, it helps promote customer loyalty and has a serene feel. Many online marketing agencies favor blue.

Reds and oranges are energizing and exciting -0 both of these colors increase the heart rate and stimulate the appetite. They are great colors for drawing attention to specific places, so using them as highlights rather than as part of your main color scheme is advisable. If red or orange is a part of your company logo, try to use it as an accent throughout your website design, not a main element.

Green is the second favorite color of the majority of people worldwide; however North Americans tend to associate it with paying money. Green as a base color can work for environmental sites or not-for-profits, but e-commerce consulting firms note that they may scare away consumers. Purple is a changeable color that is frequently favored by creative people as well as adolescent girls - whether it is based on blue or red will define whether the site seems calming and trustworthy, or energetic and excitable.