Use Color Theory to Increase Website Conversions

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Selecting an appropriate website color palette is important since it increases readability, makes the navigation clearer and should include contrast that spurs emotions.  More importantly, color theory studies have shown that effectively leveraging the attention that is drawn by unique color can dramatically affect your conversion rates. Before implementing this concept into your website you must start with an effective overall color scheme that ties into the emotions of your customers.

Why Color Matters

Color theory can be a difficult concept for most people to grasp, especially those who are not employed in creative fields. Your website color choices matter because the use of the right colors has a strong effect on emotion as well as the potential to encourage a preferred behavior. Colors are typically strongly associated with certain psychological emotions such as yellow being cheerful, blue is calming, purple being regal, etc. Here is a list of some of the common colors and what type of psychological emotion they invoke in people.

These responses and associated meanings for colors are deeply embedded in our memory and can send unintended messages if not thought through. For example, it is no coincidence that Campbells soup has used the same color label for years. I am willing to bet the mention of the Campbells conjured images in your head of the logo and specific color red. Your goal should be to have a similar level of brand recall with your clients.

Basic Color Theory Strategies

Select a simple and complimentary palette of colors and stick to them. Color should be used sparingly to attract the eye and inspire action, and to support the content and theme of the site. Do not use more than two or three colors on a single page or the colors begin to be distracting. Use the same background color on each page. Here are a few examples of poor color choices.

  • White text on a black background
  • Colored text on any dark background
  • Bright colors overlapping or butting up to other bright colors
  • Text over a background that is similar in tone
  • Avoid making larger parts of web site with very bright colors

Text Colors

Be exceptionally careful when setting text and background colors as readability must be preserved at all costs. Color combination is also very important aspect. Some color combinations are very unimpressive such as yellow text on a blue background. If the text is light colored then the background has to be dark and vice a versa. White and black always make a good combination, and red and blue are useful for highlighting. Try to avoid using the combination of black as a back ground with warm color text, as it might be great clarity wise but has a tendency to make visitors nauseous.

Making Color Convert

The key to making all of these color theories work is to determine what your visitors want, not necessarily what you want to sell them, and helping them to find and act on it. In other words, figure out what they are looking for and make it easy to find using a bold and contrasting color.

This is a fine distinction that bears clarification because if used in the wrong way the theory will backfire. If your use of the color appears to be an advertisement it will quickly be ignored. So it is critical that your use of contrasting color be considered from the customer’s perspective. We have all had the experience of wasting time searching for something on a web page that should be obvious and easily located. By making it easy for your customer to find what they are looking for you are supporting their ability to move through the site efficiently and reducing their potential for frustration.

A recent study indicates that trouble in searching for information related to products and delivery frustrates consumers, resulting in them clicking away from the website. Your goal should be for your website to provide essential information for your client so that they click through the site, find the information they are looking for, then contact you. Using subtle but effective color theory applications to assist your clients in completing this process will result in a more satisfied client and a higher potential for a conversion.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuandgravy/5234870/)

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  • Posts like this are interesting, in that they are essentially an advertisement for the author’s services. I suppose the idea is to write something that is really good so that people will read it, be impressed, and want to hire you.

    But, I have a hard time trusting anything that marketing consultants say. Marketing consultants only make money by finding something new to sell you on. If they tell you that what you’re doing is great, they don’t get paid. They’re like the text book industry. They have to come out with a new edition every few years, or else the used book market will destroy their business. It doesn’t matter if the new version is actually any better than the old version, so long as you’re spending more money.

    Plus, the author’s own site violates her “Do not use more than two or three colors on a single page” rule. She’s got beige, viridian, a sort of dark cerulean, I think we can call the yellow color gamboge, and let’s say rust for the last color in the header of her page. Then, there’s a dark gray background for the space beyond the width of the page, and a white background for the content itself, and text in black, white, and some sort of red-orange color.

  • Hmm. A few tweaks to your second paragraphs and I get this:

    “But, I have a hard time trusting anything that lawyers say. Lawyers only make money by finding something to bill hours on. If they tell you that what you’re doing is the right thing, they get to bill more hours. Oh, and if the lawyer is wrong, I lose in court or even worse, get to go to jail, the lawyer gets to rack up hours, and I have to pay for it.”

    OK, that was a little harsh, but I don’t think it is fair to malign all marketing consultants as fashion peddlers. Reality is that marketing professionals are no different than any other expert “trusted advisor”. Just like lawyers, you have to make sure the marketing pro has expertise in the domain you are hiring them (don’t hire an internet marketer to do a TV commercial campaign just like you would not hire a divorce attorney to handle patent infringement litigation). You also have to make sure that the marketing professional has a track record of success.

    Every case a lawyer takes is the world’s most important case to the client, just like every campaign a marketer is hired for is the world’s most important to the client. Every dollar paid for marketing or legal is a dollar that has no guarantee of delivering a return. There is are a few differences with marketing consultants: they often have less education (but they often have more real-world experience), they don’t have a bar association to answer to (this would set the state of advertising back to the stone ages), and they don’t carry malpractice insurance (they just go out of business when they screw up).

    Unfortunately, marketers are no different than lawyers when it comes to ethics: some hare honest, hard working and put their clients well being first. Some care more about themselves than their clients. Just be careful when you hire an agency or consultant.

    Finally, let’s be fair. Karin’s advice here is EXCELLENT and is definitely NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT. There’s no offer, no hook, nothing except information that you can use from one of the top law firm web designers in the US. Color theory is something that is not new, and has been proven over the course of about 75 years of research.

    “Gamboge?” It’s more of a “Yellow Ochre” if you ask me… but no one is asking :)

  • Graham Martin

    I really liked this post, Karin. When I first started building my law firm website I spent a lot of time looking into color theory (and settled on green because it is relaxing and I couldn’t think of anything people need more in stressful legal situations than a little relaxation). Granted, the website itself still needs a fair amount of work, but my feeling on websites is that the overall impression the viewer/user gets from the site in its entirety is more valuable than simply having good content and a good layout.

    I’m also not sure why a post from a professional about something of which she has knowledge should be condemned as self-serving advertising. It seems to me that almost every post involves something about which the author is knowledgeable; if not, it’s just speculation, which really is of little help to anyone. I guess I would rather have a professional commenting on a situation than just loud guy with strong opinions who doesn’t contribute anything to the conversation.

  • A bit of a necro comment but that’s a nice article. Link-wise and expansion-wise, I’d like to see some more in-depth treatment of psychological implications of colours as opposed to what they mean in heraldry or whatever a florist’s got to care about. Conventional meanings often get lost on people and there are countless exceptions anyway. On the other hand, how certain colours incline people to feel about you, now that’s something useful… and hard to guess. For example, in a study I looked at some time ago, there was only a relatively small difference in brightness between colours favoured by healthy people and people with depression (both were shades of blue, by the way). I’m willing to bet that guesswork wouldn’t get me far in this area.

    So now that you’ve convinced people that colour matters, and that it works, how about a separate post to guide the lawyer when he actually gets around to picking the colours?