Colour which...?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 by Richard Howe

Choosing colours which compliment each other is all part of building a website which works visually. But choosing the right combinations can be the difference between someone clicking the Buy button...or the "x" in the right corner of their browser.

I've had a look at the various options you might consider for your web site, and how you can use different shades to your advantage.


Red is an emotional colour which is associated with danger, power and passion. It's extremely visible, and that's what makes it the colour of choice for road signs, national flags...and web site highlights. Using red sparingly is a great way of enhancing calls to action such as "buy" buttons or text links. It almost forces the viewer to look where you want them to. 

Used as a main colour, red can be overpowering. However, the right shade can work really well to promote high energy products such as drinks, cars or sports thanks to the visitor's increased pulse rate.


Orange represents enthusiasm, happiness, and success. It's a very warm colour, but not to the  same extent as an aggressive shade of red. It is associated with food and harvest, so it can work really well to promote health products or foods. 

Orange is also a great choice for web sites aimed at young adults, as it's highly visible and invigorating, without being too blinding. Try to use vibrant shades of orange to catch attention and highlight the important elements of a design, rather than than  as the dominant site colour. 


Yellow can promote feelings of joy and happiness, as well as generating mental activity and energy. 

Yellow can be perceived to be a childish, spontaneous colour so is great for websites concerning children or leisure products. It's not recommended for high-end products, as yellow can give feelings of instability, making site users wary of clicking the  "Buy it now" button. 

It's  effective for attracting attention as it's seen before any other colour. Used sparingly, it can work really well to highlight the important bits of a design. Stick to crisp, fresh shades on a dark background.  Choose a shade too light, and the colour could blend in with white. Too dark, and it can look "dirty" and give the feeling of decay.


Green is the color of nature and is therefore often woven into the design of companies who want to give the feeling of being eco-friendly, or promote natural products.

Green is also very easy on the eye, which means less of your visitors will click away from your site due to glare which other colours are guilty of. (Unfortunately this doesn't compensate for visitors leaving due to poor content!)

Darker shades of green have strong ties with growth, stability and money which makes it a top choice for financial services such as banks. Green can also be a sign of safety (it is the opposite to red after all) and healing, which is why you often see the colour on medical products and hospital sites. 


Blue does the opposite to red and orange, and produces a calming effect which slows a site visitor's metabolism. It's excellent to use when promoting  anything to do with cleanliness, the air or sea. Take a look at the website of any pool company, airline or bottled water retailer and the likihood is they have blue in there somewhere.

Blue can be a sign of trust, loyalty and confidence. It is a favourite with many on-line stores as more buying decisions are made when a shade of blue is around, particularly by adult males. 

When used with a warm yellow or red, blue can create a high-impact, vibrant design just like the one you are looking at here. A lighter shade can show tranquillity and softness, while dark blue can show knowledge and seriousness. Avoid using blue with food or cooking products though as it suppresses the appetite. 


Purple is the colour associated with power, luxury, and knowledge making it ideal for high end products.

According to surveys, almost 3/4 of children prefer purple to any other colour, so this is definitely worth keeping this in mind when building a site for toys or games.

As it's pretty rare to find purple in nature, certain shades can be perceived to be artificial, so it's important to select the right tone. Try not to go for something too dark as this can cause frustration with your website visitors!

Black and white

White is a colour that is associated with light, perfection and purity, and yet is so often under used. Many web designs occupy every ounce of space available with some other shade, but it is the crispness of the white which can so often make a web design work.

It can be used to suggest simplicity, which is great for items such as electronics, which people perceive to be complicated.  It also works specifically well for non profit organisations, low fat food companies and businesses in the medical industry.

Black is associated with power and prestige. In the web world, it is also great to give a website some added perspective and depth, and even add a little bit of mystery to a layout.

In design, black or grey backgrounds can be used to make other colours stand out, so can make a really good "third colour". Go careful though...combined with vibrant tones of red or orange, this can produce something which is dazzles the visitor, and not in the good sense of the word!


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Starting a business was a big step for me. Marketing and as such – my website – was front-of-mind for a long time. I’d heard horror stories of people spending 5-digit sums of money on company websites and being presented with digital disasters.

Richard was a pleasure to work with. He really listened to the brief and had the patience of a saint as we went through the 1,000 subsequent iterations of what I wanted.

The result was a slick look & feel, highly functional starter website which I’ll be looking to build in various segments over time. Oh and it was well within budget for a 2 person start-up business. Great value. Can’t recommend Richard enough…the work speaks for itself!
Staffing web design

Stuart Rowland,
EMEA Talent Partners

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