Isaac Newton Did Not Only Discover Gravity
When we think of Isaac Newton, we get the image of a man sitting underneath an apple tree who discovered gravity after observing an apple fall. But, Newton not only advanced science. He also made a tool that designers and artists rely on today: the color wheel.
You likely have seen this wheel before, even just in passing. I bet that your elementary school art teacher had one (or several) on his or her wall—mine sure did! In design, we use the color wheel to help us create palettes that look exceptional. While having a beautiful color palette is necessary for your brand, it has a large impact on your website. Luckily, you do not need to have a Ph.D. in color science to use colors to your advantage!
When we are designing a website, sometimes we choose colors that “look good” to us without much rhyme or reason. While our gut sometimes is right, it is great to have some basic knowledge of color theory and how colors interact with each other. In this blog post, we will talk about colors and the importance of contrast on your website to highlight conversion points for your users.
So, Color Theory…The Theory of Colors…What Is It?
“Color Theory” is merely a term used to describe the science of how colors look and feel with one another. In basic terms, you can think of color theory as what colors look good and bad with one another. For example, you would not want to paint your bedroom with neon red and yellow stripes! That would be a little much.
On a color wheel, we create palettes based on where each color lies. We will outline some terms for palettes below that are commonly used by web designers:
- Complementary = two colors directly across from one another on the color wheel
- Monochromatic = one color with multiple different shades
- Analogous = colors next to one another on the color wheel
When you are choosing a palette for your website, choosing what type is a good place to start. Some designers opt to use different tones of the same color (e.g., blue) as a color palette. When I design websites, I opt to focus on complementary colors to provide contrast.
Contrasting Colors on Websites Bring Me Joy
When you go on a website, you want it to be colorful! Imagine going on a website that has a gray background, gray content sections, gray text, and a gray button. Everything would blend together! This signifies the importance of complementary colors on websites. You want to use color to your advantage to separate your content and highlight CTAs, or calls-to-action. These are points on your website where a user can convert (e.g., contact you, buy a product, book a demo, etc.).
Some businesses that I design websites for want to stick with a monochromatic or analogous color palette. While these types of color schemes can be used on a website, I always emphasize the importance of incorporating a contrast accent color into the palette for use with CTAs, such as buttons. It is perfectly fine to be more conservative in your colors. But, use an accent color for conversion points at a minimum.
When users look through your website, you want your opportunities for conversion to stand-out, or you risk your users scrolling over them. On Spark Creative’s website, we use different blues as our primary colors and incorporate a bold orange for our buttons and to emphasize certain parts of our copy (e.g., “Ignite”). If we used a similar-looking blue for our buttons, you might miss them on those blue backgrounds.
Do Not Forget: Colors Have Feelings Too!
The science behind color theory also deals with the emotions humans feel when presented with a color. For example, the color red is often associated with romance (hint: Valentine’s Day is filled with reds, right?). Knowing this, it is important to choose colors that match the tone of your brand. For example, if you are creating a website for an upscale jewelry store in the middle of Cleveland, maybe you should stay away from bright orange that has more of a youthful feel.
Picking colors is not a perfect science and there is some strategy that goes along with it. In the above scenario, maybe all of the jewelry stores in Cleveland are avoiding orange and you want to distance yourself from the crowd. You could be different and use the color orange!
There IS a Tool for That!
As such, there really is no perfect, foolproof way to choose a color palette for your website. To be successful, you need to have a strong pulse on your brand. How do you want users to feel when they see your brand? What do you want your brand to represent? What colors speak to you?
A tool that my designer friends and I use to pick colors is called Coolors.co. This site is amazing in that it allows you to generate color palettes that look great. When you launch the app, you have five different colors. Press the space bar to generate five new colors. If you find one you are happy with, click the lock icon.
When you hit the spacebar again, the app chooses four colors that go with the one you like. Keep locking and pressing the space bar until you get a palette you love. The app gives you a HEX code for each color, which is used in web design. But, there are many converters online that can tell you the RGB or CMYK combination for whatever colors you find.