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Paint Your Web Site's Sales Message with Color!

by Kamau Austin

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Published on this site: February 3rd, 2004 - See more articles from this month

Color theory, to keep it simple and not too geeky, could be described as the study of the cultural symbolism ascribed to various colors. It is the study and discipline that graphic and more recently web designers, use to symbolize the business identity and purposes of a web site. Certain colors have cultural symbolism and implications to persons in our society.

Therefore, you can convey and imply certain images and messages about your web site, company, or brand with the chosen colors of your web site.

There are of course, other elements which convey your ebusiness' corporate identity, image, brand and goodwill. Like your logo, promotional materials, or corporate communications, and even your sponsorships and charities that your company engages in, also increases the overall perception of your company in the marketplace.

However, since most of your site's visitors first impression will be their proverbial "lasting impression", it is important to get the most basic elements of your site's features correctly -- its colors.

"Don't get Creative with Your Linking Colors"

One of the most basic colors to get right are the standard accepted colors of the net: the link colors. Link colors are usually blue (for example 0000FF RGB color code), active link colors are usually red or maroon (CC0000 or 990000 respectively), and visited link colors are usually a washed out purple color. Since these colors are the standard default colors on-line, and your web site is a computer interface (and not an artists palette), don't get too creative with these colors. Many usability experts (people who study how site visitors use the web), suggest this policy because, when people first learn to use the web they are taught to look for these link colors.

Two other color elements I would suggest you keep standard in most situations is your background color being white and your font colors being black. Black fonts and text on a white background offer the highest contrast and is the easiest combination to read. This is considered classic typography. For this reason most large and successful e commerce sites feature white backgrounds and black text. When you do change the font and background colors, for creative license, just make sure the colors you choose contrast each other extremely well.
Moreover, from an usability stand point, black text against a white background is the most beneficial because, it is the easiest to read.

Red or maroon are good contrasting colors for both black and white. This is why they are used as the colors for active links and headlines on many sites. It may help you, when picking contrasting colors, for backgrounds and font colors, to learn to use the color wheels. A color wheel will show you that yellow and gold are good contrasting colors for blue, and tan is a good contrasting color for brown. Do a search on Google to get examples of color wheels.

"Examining Western Color Norms and Symbolism"

Getting back to the more symbolic and implied power of your site's color theme, lets examine some western cultural color norms and representations. I will delimit my social commentary on the negative Manichean influenced dualism endemic in some of these values.

  • White represents -- purity, clean, brightness, good

  • Black represents -- mystery, soberness, formality, death, evil, and also elegance.

  • Brown -- natural, wholesome, earthy

  • Red -- passion, vibrant, sexy

  • Green -- life, health, wealth

  • Gray -- mature, conservative

  • Blue -- corporate, business, sad

  • Yellow - intelligence, energy

There are only 216 colors that are consistent on both Macs and PC's

There are millions of variations of these colors, that most recent computer screens will show these days. However, there are only 216 colors that both MAC and PC's show across the board.

These colors are called the web safe color palette. Try to create your web site within this color palette if at all possible. Colors outside of this web safe color palette can be replaced with another color, or will be emulated by dithering.
However, a dithered color will add to your web page's file size and download time.

If you have an International site, especially when focused outside of the western European nations, research how colors symbolize different things in these different cultures. Please note that the Internet is an International media and marketplace so, colors may have a totally different meaning in other cultures. For US focused sites you may already have a good handle on what works for your site's color scheme.

It is important to use common sense when choosing colors for your site. Pastel colors would be fine for a children's site but, erode the confidence of your site's visitors on a business site. Tan, Green, and brown would do fine on an environmental site or whole foods site, but be less well received on a techie site. Fiery Red would be great for a romance site but, yellow or gold accents on a grey background would be better for a consultant's site like Dr. Ralph Wilson owner of http://www.wilsonweb.com .

In closing, choose your colors wisely and paint the positive and accurate picture you want to convey about your ebusiness to your site visitors.

Kamau Austin, helps small and minority business make more money, by creating, search friendly web sites. He is the owner of http://www.Ebizbydesign.com , http://www.Einfonews.com , and the creator of the Free Search Engine Promotion Tele-course at: http://www.SearchEngineplan.com . He can be reached at: 973-655-8866

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