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How Color Impacts User Behavior and Boosts Website Conversion

A well-matched color palette and insightful design are crucial for creating a profitable e-commerce website. Learn more about color theory and the psycology behind it.

Illustration by Tanya Shegol

Selling is the art of persuasion. When it comes to selling online, customer perception is only limited to what they see on the screen.

75% of people evaluate businesses’ trustworthiness based on their website design, according to a Stanford web credibility research. Moreover, a staggering 93% of consumers focus on visual appearance when making the final decision in favor of a certain product.

This article is not just about branding and pure aesthetics. It is about how the choice of colors can influence user behavior and impact the overall website conversion. To maximize this effect, you still have to do your research, identify the target audience, and optimize your website to run smoothly even on entry-level devices.

How colors can drive brand awareness

Using a signature color can dramatically increase the recognition of your brand among competitors!

It is remarkable, but customers are more likely to forget brand names rather than their colors. Nature tweaked our senses specifically to pay the most attention to colors, which are followed by shapes, symbols, and words.

In the modern world, it would be really hard to find a person who would not point out Coca-Cola among its competitors. This brand has many traits that make it stand out in the market, including the bottle shape or logo’s font, but above all – its signature shade of red. 

The same can be said about Ford’s notorious blue oval or those shining golden arches of McDonald’s.

Red color is a signature for Coca Cola

Coca-Cola’s signature red color – you’ll know it when you see it

Some would say all these brands have been out there for quite a while, and today it is almost impossible to create such an impact on brand recognition using colors alone.
But take a look at this inspiring example of CD Project Red, a Polish game development studio behind the “Cyberpunk 2077.” It created a memorable brand that managed to set it apart from other sci-fi franchises like Tron, Blade Runner, and The Matrix.

Speaking at the games conference Digital Dragons, the project’s lead environment artist Michał Janiszewski shared that the game artists were, in fact, using Coca-Cola as a reference. “The yellow color is pretty much the same thing. It is conveying the information, it is simple to remember,” said Janiszewski.

Cyberpunk official wallpaper with yellow signature color

Cyberpunk 2077 official wallpaper

The success behind this choice was so vast that the influence of “cyberpunk yellow” on the mass culture somewhat went out of control. Companies that operate far from the gaming industry like apparel manufacturers and food delivery services started using a similar neon yellow in their color schemes hoping to benefit from its cultural impact.

Color theory 101

Now, it is time to reveal the secrets of how designers and artists choose colors to create stunning and emotional images that imprint in people’s minds. They use an astonishing combination of art and science called the color theory, to create color harmony. 

Color wheel basics

The invention of the color theory dates back to 1666 when Isaac Newton mapped the visible spectrum on a wheel. Painters, designers, VFX artists, and anyone who deals with visuals use it to summon particular emotions and feelings from the audience.

The color wheel not only shows the existing colors but also depicts relationships between them, in order to locate which combinations create the most eye-pleasing effect when put next to each other.

The color wheel demonstrates the 12 main colors which are red, blue, yellow, green, orange, violet, blue-green, yellow-green, yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, and blue-violet.

Color wheel with the 12 main colors

Color wheel by

These colors in the center of the wheel are called primary colors. In the RYB color wheel, those are red, yellow, and blue. When you mix any two primary colors, you get secondary colors, which are green, orange, and violet.

By combining one of the primary colors with one of the secondary ones, you will get tertiary colors. Among them are yellow-orange, yellow-green, red-orange, red-violet, blue-green, and blue-violet.

Apart from screening Dribble in search of inspiration, web designers use a slew of online services to streamline their work. They are extremely useful and simple to work with:

Color terminology explained

The world of color, art, and design may only seem chaotic. In reality, it follows a set of pretty strict rules and has its own technical language. Learning some basic terminology before taping into the ocean of infinite color combinations might be extremely helpful when it comes to describing your requests to the design unit.

  • Hue.  Artists and designers often use this term interchangeably when they mean the term “color.” While the latter is used to describe all colors in general, including black, grey, and white, the term ”hue” refers to one of the primary or secondary colors on the color wheel as the base of the color we actually see.
  • Tint.  Use this term when you need to describe a hue with white added to it. Tints may range from a slightly paler version of a given hue to the almost completely white with a dash of color.
  • Shade.  The opposite of tint, if short. This term represents a hue when you add different amounts of black to it. Imagine how colors in the room become darker and darker when you start dimming the lights. Different shades of a hue may vary from a slightly darker version to almost black.
  • Tone.  The effect of a “tone” represents variations of a certain hue but instead of adding pure white or black, you add a combination of two colors. Which is any grayscale color, excluding pure white or black.
  • Color temperature: warm vs cool.  Simply put, it refers to “warm” colors like red, orange, and yellow and combinations of these colors and their hues. Warm colors are typically associated with sunshine, energy, and heat. “Cool” colors presented by blue, green, and light purple, refer to freshness and chill.

What is color psychology and why is it important in web design?

Before going further with your website’s color scheme, you need to decide what core message you want to communicate to your customers. There are several factors that affect the way people perceive colors when it comes to marketing. Individual preferences, cultural differences, and the market you are trying to enter – all this matters if you want to make colors drive the overall website conversion. 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer on what particular colors to use, that is why gathering some background information at this point is a must. The information below will give you some solid ground to kick off your research and help you align your business idea with a preferred color scheme.

Colors and feelings they evoke in people

Illustration by ParallelBranding

Blue – calm, stable, and trustworthy

It is hard to find a more widespread color used in design than blue. The color of the sky and ocean symbolizes stability, trust, and the capability of withstanding any obstacles. That is why so many financial and technological brands love using it in their branding.

Red – fast, motivating, and thrilling

Red is the most visible color on the spectrum. It urges immediate response, increases your heart rate, and activates the pituitary gland. Sometimes, it can be overstimulating so it is recommended to use it in small doses.

Yellow – happy, optimistic, and engaging

If you ask people around you to name a color of joy and optimism, most of them would say that it is yellow. As an accent color, yellow is good at grabbing people’s attention and creating a sense of urgency.

Orange – fun, active, and lively

When you need to combine the explosive energy of red with a cheer of yellow, orange would most likely be your choice. It is full of life and evokes excitement. It is widely popular among kids, but incorporating it into your website should be done with precision and caution.

Pink – light, sensitive, and caring

While in the US market pink is associated with femininity, in Japan it is the color of sakura blossoms, which delivers a totally different message. Lighter tints of pink can refer to something delicate and fragile, while more intense tones will be more emotional, even euphoric.

Purple – wise, mysterious, and distinguished

Purple embraces the power of red with the calm strength of blue. While signifying creativity and luxury, purple also can be extremely polarizing. It tends to draw female customers but at the same time, almost instantly repelling the male audience. That is why it is suggested to use it with caution. The color code for purple: sophistication, mystery, luxury, and wisdom.

Green – healthy, sustainable, and organic

Green is a synonym for health, growth, and freshness. It combines the calming effect of blue and the energetic qualities of yellow. Green is also one of the most universal ones that can dramatically change its meaning depending on the tint, shade, or tone you are using – from affluence to serenity. 

Brown – robust, durable, and simple

Brown is all about being as much down-to-earth as possible. Use this color in your brand identity with caution, since many people associate it with dirt. Which is actually not necessarily bad, especially if you promote outdoor and off-road brands. 

Black – elegant, powerful, and strong

Black is one of the most popular colors among luxury brands. Black can be formal, edgy, traditional, and innovative. Such an array of conflicting associations makes black one of the most universal colors in web design.

White – pure, minimalist, and clean

White is probably one of the most important colors in web design. This color gives your users visual breathing to absorb the information you want to present. In case pure white seems too cold and strict, you may use pale tints of warmer colors like ivory that grant the same visual benefits.

Grey and silver – practical, neutral, technological

Grey, which is a mixture of black and white, is associated with metal, innovation, and science. Depending on the proportion of the parenting colors, gray can adopt different features of both.

How to use the color wheel to choose the right color scheme?

A color wheel is a tool that has proven itself to be very useful when it comes to combining colors, without any knowledge about color or fashion. This will allow you to build a website that matches your primary brand colors by selecting contrasting or harmonious colors to deliver the desired effect.

Color schemes help you choose right colors for your design

Color schemes by

Analogous scheme

Analogous color combinations represent the colors that are located close to each other on the color wheel. Such color schemes represent serenity and a sense of control. Typically, brands use them when they want to demonstrate expertise and confirm their leading positions in the market.

This combination can work well when you want to create a harmonious brand design or you want your brand to be associated with a certain color. Businesses often use it when they want to highlight a marketing campaign or promote a particular product line.

Complimentary schemes

Complimentary combinations represent colors that rest on the opposite parts of the color wheel. They provide the highest level of contrast and make your design bold or help certain elements to stand out. 

Use complementary colors to highlight important elements on your website like a CTA button. Such color schemes trigger different types of photoreceptors in the eye which makes our brain consider them vibrant and pleasing.

Split-complimentary scheme

Split-complimentary combination rests on the same principles that the complimentary scheme does but instead of just one color on the opposite side of the color wheel, it offers to use two – each from either side of it. This offers more flexibility than a complementary scheme and allows for balancing the base color with both warm and cool hues.

Triadic scheme

The apex of the split-complimentary color combo would be the triadic combination. The colors in triadic combinations are located equally spaced from each other on the color wheel forming an equilateral triangle.

Even when toned down or tinted, a triadic color scheme can be vibrant. For exactly the same reason, you have to be very careful by balancing triadic colors since they may easily turn from energetic to adolescent and amateur.

Square and tetrahedral schemes

Similar to triadic, colors in the square combination are located at an equal distance on the color wheel. However, now, there are four of them, instead of three. Basically, tetrahedral and square color schemes represent combinations of two pairs of complementary colors.

With these schemes, your design will surely stand out among competitors. Especially if “standing out” means being the brightest and the most cheerful company on the market. Beware of becoming too overwhelming – you still need users to locate that CTA button.

Best practices in color psychology

By utilizing the power of color you can not only raise brand awareness and improve your website conversion but also control user emotions and change their perception. However, the wrong usage of color may be counter-productive, and finding the right balance is vital.

Mind the context

The purpose of an element on your website will most likely give you a hint on which color to use. The colors that create contrast from the main colors of your brand perform better for CTA buttons. Use them to motivate visitors to leave their contact details, sign up for an e-mail newsletter, or perform any other target action.

Streamline customer journey

Use colors to help users easily identify the primary and secondary information on your website. The color scheme should navigate each customer’s journey through the content by highlighting the information and elements you want users to interact with.

While the debates over which interface is better, light or dark, have finally started to calm down, you might find it beneficial to use the best from both worlds. 

White or light-themed interfaces, as mentioned before, provide users with the necessary visual space to perceive the information. They also provide better readability when you want users to actually read everything you put on your website or company’s blog.

Black or dark-themed interfaces, on the other hand, work well with bright text colors and create a sense of professionalism and luxury. They also provide better UX when operating in a dark environment and reduce battery consumption on mobile devices. Reading lots of text information on black background, however, may be less comfortable.

Create A/B tests to choose the best design

E-Commerce A/B Tests: Light and Dark Mode by Swapnil Borkar

Do not overload your website with colors

You don’t want users’ eyes to go all over the page filled with flashing neon signs like the streets of Las Veras at night. Your mission is to create contrast and make people want to click that CTA button – not irritate them.

The optimal palette features for a three or four-color scheme:

  • Primary color works as a beacon that makes the most important content visible and attractive.
  • Secondary color should work well with the primary one. You might need it to highlight some other information and create bullet points.
  • Accent color serves as a contrasting primary color that draws the visitor’s attention to the key elements of the website like CTA buttons.
  • Background color is the base of your website. It should work well with all the other colors you choose.

If you struggle with finding an optimal balance, just try following the classic 60-30-10 rule. It is quite eye-comforting and works just fine for both room decorations and website layouts. Use 60% of the dominant color, 30% of the secondary color, and 10% to accentuate.

Test different color schemes

Upgrading the color scheme of your website, according to the principles highlighted in this article, will help you improve the conversion and retention rates at some point. The truth, however, is that all brands, websites, and audiences they target are different. Moreover, regions, cultures, and markets also leave their impact on how people react to certain colors.

That is why it is so important to run tests on different color schemes and all the main elements you want to change. Hubspot, for instance, found out that red CTA buttons outperform green ones. But for many other businesses, it did not work out. How will it end up for your website? Tests will show.

Colors need context

To sum up the facts, there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” colors in web design. Colors can invoke strong emotions, inspire visitors to complete their customer journey, and boost your conversion beyond limits. But colors need context.

This context should align with the message your brand is trying to communicate. Remember, your website has only a snap-of-a-finger timespan to capture visitors’ attention. Not to mention that it has to be filled with persuasive and engaging content to convert leads into actual clients. As it is said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

On top of making the CTA button blue or red, you need to be sure it is positioned in the right place and backed by relevant content. Shakuro’s experience in website building shows that good design does not just paint a nice-looking picture – it pays off with leads. And some leads may attract thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. 

Contact us now to get a flawless website that 100% suits your business goals. The team behind Shakuro has more than 15 years of experience in building websites and creating state-of-the-art identities for the world’s leading brands.

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Written by Sergio Santino

June 06, 2022

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