Your website has many pieces that work together to create a living, breathing, user-centered machine. One of those pieces that can make or break your interaction is – you guessed it – your website color palette!
Why is having an effective website color palette is important to your users?
Color is a crucial piece to solidifying your brand, creating trust, providing hierarchy, and highlighting important messaging. Having the right color palette can help your users navigate smoothly, engage in content, and even rave about your site! If you have the wrong color palette, or not having one at all can confuse, irritate, or even drive customers away. Remember the golden rule – you only have 3 seconds to impress before users leave.
This is something we take very seriously in our website design process and we think you should understand why!
Here are some best practices when it comes to creating & correctly using a website color palette:
1. Align with your Brand
If your website color palette does not align with your branding it can create brand confusion. This can happen when you use inconsistent shades, too many colors, a color that doesn’t make any sense or not enough of one color in proportion to the others.
How to align your website color palette to your brand:
Most brands have 1 or 2 main colors found in their logo, while most websites will need 4 to 5. This does not mean they have to be different colors. When adding colors to your palette to meet the needs of a website make sure to keep in mind that using neutrals, shades of an existing color or a contrasting color can go a long way!
Always make sure to keep your target audience in mind and don’t bring in any colors that risk the consistency of your brand. For example, most construction companies aren’t pink, and their users won’t react well to pink (unless of course that’s EXACTLY the person you are looking for, who knows!).
See an example of a website color palette made out of only having a logo to go off of below:
2. Use Color Psychology
If you don’t pay attention to color psychology and how it affects your target audience you may be showing the wrong things to the wrong people. This can lead to users misunderstanding you and what your business should mean to them. It can cause users to feel something that wasn’t what you intended them to feel.
For example, imagine you are looking for a new dentist, you want one that is an expert, trusted, and approachable. You search google and click on the 5th link down, the page loads, and the main color is brown! Do you still feel comfortable getting your teeth cleaned here? Probably not. Why is that? Because brown is earthly, natural, and commonly used in the outdoors. This dentist would have been better off to use colors that provide a sense of calmness, security, serenity, and trust. Some of those colors are: blue, grey, green, and white.
How to use color psychology to your advantage:
If you know your target audience you should know some of the emotions that trigger them to find security, interact, and ultimately purchase. By doing a little bit of research you can find out what colors evoke certain underlying human emotions. Focus on finding a primary color that “fits” your target audience.
Below is a quick color guide (with brand type examples):
3. Provide the right amount of Contrast
When you don’t provide enough contrast within your color palette you risk losing customers because it lacks readability. Have you ever been on a website on your phone and had trouble reading orange text on blue or a light grey text on a white background? That’s exactly the problem not having the right contrast creates!
If you don’t have enough contrast between colors you can be seen as dull and not having anything that stands out. By not don’t using your colors in the right way on contrasting backgrounds you risk readability. Colors that contrast too much (yes, too much is possible as well) can create what we call “color vibrations”, where the colors start to vibrate against each other and make it hurt your eyes.
How to provide the right amount of contrast:
When creating a website color palette focus on finding a good compliment to your primary color, this can mean opposite the color wheel or a color close to the same mood. It also is helpful to have a lighter version of your primary or secondary color for using in various background or button situations. Make sure to also have a few grays, ranging from light to dark. When using colors on your site, important information should stand out against the background.
Now not everyone here is a color expert, a great tool to use that gives you a head start is Adobe Color. It can provide you with complementary colors, triad colors, and even shades.
Here are examples with good and bad uses of contrast using the same colors:
4. Leverage Hierarchy
One of the biggest mistakes in the use of a color palette is not using it wisely. You can have the perfect website color palette, but if you don’t use it to your advantage, sometimes the point doesn’t come across. You can find yourself with a jumbled mess of colors and no consistency in usage. Sometimes you have all the colors right, but your proportions are off. If a brand’s primary color is blue and secondary is orange, users would expect to see more blue, some orange, and shades of grey.
How to leverage hierarchy:
Remember that your color palette is a tool when it comes to your website. Use your primary colors for larger text, calls-to-action, links, and buttons to create a visual difference between the background and the body copy. Use your secondary colors to highlight secondary calls-to-action, links, and anything else that doesn’t need immediate attention. Your muted colors, tertiary colors, or greys will come in handy when you need a background color or a small design element that does not need to compete for attention.
One way we get ahead on this is by creating a styleguide. This styleguide below shows how colors should be used. Note: not everything is used in the same capacity.
5. Save room for “White” Space
Imagine landing on a website that is bright color on top of bright color, the text is colored, the background is colored, the button is colored, the design elements are colored, things are everywhere – are you lost yet? Even if all of these colors were in a color palette that followed your brand and you used color psychology, this would still distract your users and send them running. Without having white space, or a place with nothing going on, there is no room for the user to breathe. This brings stress to the user, which ultimately – you guessed it – makes them leave.
How to create “white” space:
You might think we’re actually talking about the color white. Well, we aren’t. We are talking about the visual space around elements. This is most typically referred to as “white” space because that’s where most website start out, and the background of most websites.
In order to create “white” space (visual space) around elements make sure that your colors aren’t sitting on top of each other. Make sure that you have space around your text to read and digest before moving on to the next section. Make sure you use your colors to create sections, and backgrounds. Once you’ve made sure everything on your website has breathing room, you’ve successfully created “white” space, while still using your awesome color palette.
You might be a little out of your wheelhouse, but hopefully you now understand the importance of having a well-rounded website color palette. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your user interaction, and without having an amazing color palette you risk losing them.
Now you have some tips and tricks that you can use to look over your site, or at the very least to see how other websites implement (or don’t) the strategies above! If you want to focus on this but don’t have enough time on your hands, we can help you look over your site with our FREE AUDIT!