But there’s a tremendous amount of value in leaning in and perfecting the finer details.
One of these details is color theory.
More specifically, you must embrace the concept of psychology of color, color theory and how the human brain perceives different shades of light.
Table of Contents
The Power of Color
The perception of color is something that human beings have studied intently for many centuries.
Ancient Greek philosophers would argue over whether colors were made of black, white, and red light, or whether it was simply some sort of celestial light that shone down from the heavens.
Sir Isaac Newton spent many hours experimenting with prisms and ultimately theorized the three primary colors from which other colors are made (blue, red, and bright yellow).
And as we’ve come to know more about human biology and anatomy, researchers and scientists have spent a great deal of energy studying how the human brain perceives color.
According to WIRED:
Each color represents a specific part of the electromagnetic spectrum, though humans can only see the slice of this spectrum known as ‘visible light.’ Of the wavelengths visible to humans, red ones are longer, while blues and violets are shorter.
Photons of light stimulate photoreceptors in the eye, which transform that information into electrical signals that are sent to the retina, which processes those signals and sends them along to the brain’s visual cortex.
Those are the mechanics of how the eye sees light waves and interacts with them.
But how someone sees light and how they perceive color are two very different ideas.
Every human has a unique preference for certain colors and may even see the same color differently, but we do know that colors evoke visceral responses.
There are massive bodies of research that shows psychology of color and light have the ability to impact mood, heart rate, blood pressure, alertness, focus, sensitivity, impulsivity, sexual arousal, sleep, and even financial decision making.
For example, we know that exposure to light early in the morning – particularly blue or green light – initiates a release of cortisol in the brain.
This stimulates our minds and bodies and causes us to wake.
It also inhibits the release of melatonin (which induces sleepiness).
While at night, the lack of sunlight (blue light) leads to an increase in the production and release of melatonin, which signals to the body that it’s time to sleep.
Color Psychology is a powerful force. And while it can be leveraged in a variety of situations, it’s especially powerful in the hands of an ethical marketer, entrepreneur, or business owner.
Color Psychology in SEO and Marketing
Psychology of Color is basically a field of study dedicated to analyzing and understanding how different colors influence human behavior.
And when studied in the context of marketing, it explains how various colors impact the way people perceive brands and their products.
Here are some different ways color makes an impact:
Color goes beyond preference.
While every person has their own affinity for particular shades, there are biological attachments to each color that have a much bigger impact than personal taste.
In branding, color can make or break a company’s perception.
You’ll see color used in almost every area of a business, including logo, storefront, uniforms, websites, social profiles, advertisements, product packaging, etc.
By using the same consistent color theme, you can establish a sense of continuity.
Colors can be masculine or feminine, serious or playful, affordable or luxurious, classic or modern, mature or youthful, subdued or noisy…the list goes on.
When choosing colors for your brand, you’ll generally select two to three colors (though it’s possible to have one or even four).
These colors should be selected to align with your brand personality and target customer.
One color will act as a base color – this is your primary color choice – and then the other one or two colors will be accent colors. One can understand more with the help of a color wheel.
They should complement the base color and give you flexibility in your designs and SEO.
The combination of colors you use in your marketing is known as a color scheme – and there are a few different kinds:
- Monochromatic. As the root word here suggests, this is a color scheme that focuses on one color. This is typically the best approach for most brands, but it can work. Target, for example, is all about the red. You could argue that white is also one of their colors, but the white simply acts as negative white space(can be checked in color wheel). Most would agree they have a monochromatic scheme.
- Analogous. When you look at the color wheel, two colors that rest side by side are known to have a sort of harmonious relationship. And if you pick two of these colors, you have what’s known as an analogous scheme.These schemes are pretty safe, but won’t grab a ton of attention. They’re good for businesses where you want a more conservative, high-trust approach (rather than being flashy).
- Complementary. If you choose two colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel, you get a complementary scheme. They bring out the best in one another and typically stimulate the senses and draw attention. You’ll see this a lot with sports teams. Notice how many of them use orange and blue, for example. This is designed to draw your attention to the “product.”
- Triadic. Finally, you have triadic. This is where there are three different colors from three different sections of the color wheel. This creates a sense of visual balance, while still having attention-grabbing tendencies.
These are just some of the principles you should know when selecting and refining your color scheme.
We’ll go into more detail on specific colors and the meaning behind them in the following section on the psychology of common colors.
But for now, just know that it’s important thing to be cognizant of how colors fit together.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Color choice can have a significant impact on SEO as well.
While Google and other search engines don’t technically have a line of code in their algorithms that address color, they do respond to the indirect results of color choice.
What do we mean by that? Well, consider that certain colors have the ability to improve conversion rates.
They ran the test over multiple days and got more than 2,000 visits to the page.
Half were served a green button and the other half were given a red button.
The result was that 21 percent more people clicked on the red button than they did on the green button. And considering that every other element on the page was the same, this indicates that color has the ability to influence clicks, conversions, and other similar activities.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to quickly change all of your CTAs to red, but it does indicate the importance of color choice.
3. User Experience
Color plays a significant role in how visitors experience an individual web page or larger website.
If the colors are loud and splashy, it might grab their attention.
However, it’ll elevate their blood pressure and cause most people to close out the window as quickly as possible.
If the colors are boring – like black and white – it might be easy on the eyes, but there’s nothing to convince someone to stick around and find out what the create websites offers. So the web designer should know how to play with colors.
Colors impact user experience along a spectrum.
You want the colors to be engaging and crisp enough to draw people in, but not so flashy that they push people away.
The Psychology of Common Colors
We’ve spent the bulk of this article discussing theoretical examples of why color matters, how to choose a color scheme, and the ways it can impact branding, SEO, and user experience.
But you’re probably wondering how you can pick the right colors for the right outcomes(A good web designer can help in that).
In this section, we’ll explore the 10 most common colors and the emotions and psychology that are attached to them.
This should allow you to strategically select certain colors and optimize your website, online brand, and digital presence.
- Red is a color that stimulates and attracts attention.Positive connotations include love, power, passion, energy, strength, and heat. Negative associations involve danger, warning, and anger.Red can often be used to promote a sense of urgency and drive people to take action (like in the Performable study we referenced earlier.)Plenty of successful corporations use red as their primary brand color, including Netflix, Target, and Coca-Cola. If you want something bold and edgy, this could be an option for you.
- Orange sits next to red on the color spectrum and shares some of the same warm attributes, albeit with slightly less stimulation of the senses.Orange has positive associations with warmth, courage, success, friendliness, and confidence. But it can also conjure up feelings of sluggishness or ignorance. It can also feel cheap.(When was the last time you saw a luxury product or brand use the color orange?) Brands that use orange are typically fun and lively, like Fanta, Nickelodeon, and Hooters.
- Yellow is a bright color that commands attention and creates very distinct associations in the minds of consumers. Positive feelings include optimism, happiness, fun, and sunshine. Negatives may connect a brand to feelings of instability or irresponsibility.Like orange, bright yellow tends to be more of a “cheap” or budget-friendly color and is rarely used in luxury settings. (Though it is interesting to note that Ferrari, a very high-end brand, uses yellow as a primary color.That just goes to show there are exceptions to every rule.) Popular brands that use yellow include Subway, Best Buy, and McDonald’s.
- Green is a color of refreshment. It’s relaxing and very easy on the eyes. Green evokes positive feelings of peace, serenity, growth, nature, and health.Though it can also be used to produce feelings like guilt, envy, and jealousy (typically associated with money). Well-known green-centric brands include BP, Publix, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and John Deere.
- Blue is a dependable color that insinuates strength and trust. It has a calming and cooling effect on people, making them feel relaxed and at ease(One can study about warm and cool colors). It can also be viewed as cold and masculine in some scenarios, however. So keep this in mind if you’re trying to produce opposite effects.Blue is often used in businesses where trust is very important – like finance or healthcare. (Companies like JP Morgan, IBM, Pfizer, and Oral-B use blue.) But it can also be used in a variety of other industries.Companies ranging from Lowe’s and Oreo to Facebook and Walmart rely on blue to connect with customers. For the same reason, our website design is also blue.
- Purple is the combination of red and blue – and it shares some common attributes with both. It’s seen as a regal, creative, and luxurious color that moves people to take action.It can also be viewed as mysterious and mystical (which may be a positive or negative depending on your brand’s goals). While less common than certain primary colors, purple is a popular choice for brands that want to let loose and have a little fun.Examples include Barbie, Yahoo!, Taco Bell, and Welch’s.
- White is a color of balance, calm, innocence, purity, freshness, and cleanliness. It’s a minimalistic color that helps people feel centered and balanced.
It can also be boring and inconspicuous though.
This is why it typically gets paired with other colors, where it provides clean contrast. While we’ll let you argue over which color is the primary one and which is the negative, brands like Apple, Inc., and Wikipedia all have white as one of their main colors.
- Gray is slightly different than white. It usually evokes similar emotions, but is seen as more luxurious. It’s also a very high-tech and glamorous color.You’ll see a lot of tech and luxury companies, including Apple, Lexus, and Peugeot use silver.
- Black is often leveraged in tandem with white or grey. It sends signals of formality, drama, class, and protection.It also has a shadow side, where it can possibly create feelings of mystery, death, or evil.Black is a popular choice for brands like Nike, Puma, and The New York Times.
- Brown often gets forgotten about, but it has its place in branding. It’s often associated with friendliness, longevity, earthiness, and the great outdoors.However, it can also give off an unappealing aesthetic that feels dogmatic and conservative. Brown is not a popular color in the grand scheme of branding, but you will see it in popular companies like UPS, Cracker Barrel, Hershey’s, and M&M’s.
As you can see, every color provokes a different set of responses. Some are obvious and intuitive, while others are more subconscious and under-the-radar.
If you need to bookmark the post and refer back to this section in the future, feel free to do so.
Implement, Test, and Iterate
The key with color psychology (or really any website element, for that matter) is to implement based on best practices, drive traffic to the desired pages, test, and iterate.
Simple A/B tests can be very effective if you’re stuck between which colors to choose for a homepage background, CTA button, headline, or graphic. Here’s how you conduct an A/B test:
- Create two versions of the page where everything is the same except for the element that you want to test.
- Serve one page to half of your visitors and another page to the other half.
- Wait until you’ve received enough traffic to avoid the margin of error.
- Once you’ve gotten enough traffic, study the analytics behind each page.
- If both pages performed fairly equally, you can continue to use both pages or pick the one that you feel most confident in.
- If one page significantly outperforms the other, discard the losing one and use the winning one as your final page.
It’s important to note that things change over time. What works now may not work in five years. It’s a good idea to constantly test different elements and iterate whenever the data tells you to.
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One of these external stimulants is a force of nature known as Google.
As Google goes, so will your website and online marketing strategy.
And it’s important thing that you evolve with the times to account for new and emerging best practices.
This includes high-quality content marketing and organic link building that drives authority to your site and enhances your search rankings.
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