The best color scheme for website?

Filed Under (Usability) by Husein Yuseinov on 21-02-2009

Tagged Under : , ,

How to pick up the best color scheme for a website?

usabilityOk, so you have the idea for a new web site and have all the layouts, functionalities and features worked out, but what about the color scheme? What are the right colors you can use to really make your site as attractive and memorable as possible? If, like me, you are color illiterate and can’t even coordinate a packet of smarties, then you will benefit from some of the useful information and tools on this article and get the right scheme ideas for your plot on the net.

Color Association

Without getting too “sciency” about the matter, colors are important to web site design because of how humans emotionally respond and associate to them. If you really want to get into the reasons why color is so important, I suggest you check out some of the articles at the ColorLab.

Let’s look at some examples of existing web sites that are using colors to connotate meaning. Click the colors below to visit the sites…

  • Green – Trees, cleanliness, fresh, natural.
  • Red – Warmth, love, happiness.
  • Blue – Water, ocean, natural, dolphins.
  • Light Blue – Sky, natural, modern, electric, clouds.
  • Yellow – Citrus, fresh, friendly, funny, lemons.
  • Purple – Feminine, wealth, romance.
  • Black – Darkness, evil, empty, hellish.

With these examples, the designer had no problem choosing a color scheme as the connotations matched so well, so what if there is no color scheme that naturally fits the topic of your web site? What is a good color to choose and what isn’t?

Choosing a Color Scheme

Before we get into the types of color scheming, I would like to introduce to you. ColorLovers is an online community dedicated to color palettes and patterns and it’s all free and open for users to submit their own color schemes. Each palette has keywords associated with it, so try searching for your sites topic and see what it comes up with. Check the web site color trends as well to get some inspiration for your own site.

On with the show…

The Professional
For a professional site such as a government agency, lawyers firm or accountancy, you will not want bright, vibrant colors to ruin your business image.
A great example of professional color scheming can be seen at the WhiteHouse web site.
This site uses a set of royal and navy (Uniform) blues for header backgrounds, light grays for fading and white for the body background. Red font is used for important headings to catch the readers eye. See the scheme colors on ColorLovers here.

The Casual
Casual schemes are colors that just look good together. Ebay has established a recognizable logo and so the rest of the sites color scheme is based on it. You can see mostly the yellows and a few of the other colors dotted round, it’s not exactly themed on anything and not dull, professional looking colors so “Casual” sits there as a good description. Here are a couple of good example palettes that are tagged as casual: One. Two.

SmartiesThe Extreme
Extreme colors are great for kids sites, web comics or extrovert blogs. They are good fun and therefore easily memorable, but there is a line. Go-Pokemon is an extreme color covered site that is attractive, coordinated and memorable. An example of a coordination that maybe on, or stepping over the coordination line has to be the ICQ home site, you can see the design is nice but the colors are all over the place. Here is a palette example.

The Feminine
Fashion and gossip communities love the feminine schemes with their purples, pinks and whites. Stereotypes are loosely based on a truth and the truth remains that these colors attract female audiences. AmericanGirl has a good Feminine scheme but also doubles up to appeal to kids by using extremely feminine colors. HollywoodFashionTape keeps it simple and feminine using faint pinks. Here is a ColorLover palette.

Have a play!

So, as you can see there are many categories a color scheme could fit into. If you’re going to bring a web site into the world, you should take into consideration the target audience and themes of the site, then find a relative color scheme to go with the connotations of the site themes and the needs of the audience. If you get really stuck, play with a mixture of palettes and get a second opinion to see which scheme could be the most successful.

Thanks to ColorLab, Colorlovers and all the other websites featured for a colorful internet experience!