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Color Theory: How Color Psychology Works

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Conversions keep websites going.

For many webmasters, anyone that signs up for their newsletter is a notch in the win column.

When someone fills out a contact form is also a cause for celebration.

And when a visitor buys a product or service they are offering, they must be jumping for joy because they just scored what many refer to as the ultimate conversion.

There are many measures of a website’s success, from the traffic that it’s getting to its ranking in the search engine results, but conversions will always be the biggest single indicator of how successful a site is.

Many factors impact conversion rates, including the color used for the web design.

Some people may not realize it, but the color is a potent design tool, and it’s particularly true in web design.

Color Psychology

Color psychology is a sub-field of behavioral psychology that concerns itself with how human behavior is affected by colors.

There are certain emotions, attitudes, and values associated with specific colors, and it’s those associations that web designers and marketers, in general, are using to elicit the reactions they want to further their purposes, whether it’s social, political, or simply entrepreneurial.

I asked Craig Murphy of ALT Agency, A Birmingham based web design company. this question.

“So, Craig, what do you think about colors affecting website conversions? Do you think that “color psychology” is a real phenomenon?”

“It’s a great question and it is something that we really believe in – However it does all come down to testing. There are certain colours that just work as a baseline: business companies tend to use shades of blue and white space, Outdoor companies tend to use yellows, greens and browns, schools & child friendly websites tend to use bright primary colours. [spacer height=”15px”]
Colour psychology has to make sense and be consistent with the website/company that you are building a website for.[spacer height=”15px”]
There’s no point using purple or green on  website if it serves no purpose, just because the psychology behind it is money/financial related.[spacer height=”15px”]
According to a study “Impact on colour marketing” research showed that 90% of snap judgements were based on colour – So it is hugely effective.[spacer height=”15px”]Using a bright contrasting colour for your call to actions can also be a good idea – As it draws attention to your buttons which often instruct a website visitor to buy or click to take an action in the step.[spacer height=”15px”]Overall we believe and have found through our own testing that colour psychology plays a huge part in website conversions.”[spacer height=”15px”]So, now let’s take a look at some colors and the human emotions, attitudes, and values that color psychology has assigned to them.


We don’t need color psychology to tell us that red is the color of love and passion.

Interestingly, rage, violence, danger, and jealousy are also associated with red.

As far as marketers are concerned, red is perfect for projecting a sense of urgency.

Take a look at an ad for clearance sales that offer breathtaking deals, and you will see that most, if not all of them are in red, which has the power to make people who see the ad rush off to the store or log on to the website holding the sale before it’s too late.

Few colors are as stimulating as red, a fact that isn’t lost on marketers and web designers everywhere.


On the human side of things, blue represents calmness.

Some call it the coolest color, with people believing that the sight of it lowers blood pressure and their heart rate as well.

The word “blue” is also a common English idiom for “sad.”

The business world, however, likes blue for its association with intelligence, stability, security, trust, and reliability.

All businesses would like to be seen as having these qualities, which is why they often use blue.

One of the most prominent companies to adopt blue as its color is Facebook.


Green is one of the easiest colors for the brain to process.

Easy on the eyes, green is associated with being decisive.

It’s the most prominent association, however, is with the environment or anything that has something to do with conservation, sustainability, and other environmental issues.

So websites that have an environmental agenda typically use green in its web design.


Black is generally regarded as the color of doom and gloom. It’s the color most people in the western world wear at a funeral.

When a comedy film shows a lot of killing, it’s called a “black” comedy.

However, if you get all the depressing aspects of the black out of the way, you will see that it’s a very sophisticated color, at least for advertisers and marketers.

Look at magazine ads for high-end products which often use black.

This isn’t surprising since black is excellent for projecting glamour, elegance, and beauty.

On top of beauty, black is also associated with power.


Innocence and purity readily come to mind whenever we see white, in the West at least.

White, however, is also a favorite among businesses in the healthcare industry.

White, after all, is hygienic and clean, which makes it perfect for hospitals and other medical facilities.


Regardless of what pop culture says, yellow will always be the warmest color, if only for the fact that it’s the color of sunshine.

Most people feel a sense of cheerfulness at the sight of yellow.

There are even people who think they feel a bit more optimistic or even younger when there’s something yellow in the room.

However, just like sunshine, too much yellow can be overwhelming.

Dial back on the yellow when you’re designing a website so you won’t turn people off with too much cheerfulness.


Orange is a color that gives off a sense of cheer and warmth and at the same time creates a sense of urgency.

Then again, it should be expected to do both since orange is actually a combination of yellow and red.

Many webmasters use orange for their calls-to-action because it attracts as much attention as red.

Tips for picking the right colors for your web design

To be clear, the behavioral associations that color psychology makes are not definitive and certainly not unassailable.

After all, we as individuals see and react to colors in different ways, obviously influenced by our personal experiences.

Then again, those associations do come close to how people, in general, react to colors, and that is why designers of all persuasions try to understand enough of these associations so they can use them to get what they want from their audience.

For web designers, that would be conversions.

When picking the right colors for your web design, you need to do some research on your target market to find out the color that they will respond to positively.

You can’t just settle on any one color until you’ve taken all the factors into consideration, including age, gender, and culture.

So if you’re selling to women, find out what their color preferences are.

Men also have them, so you have to factor them in.

Are you selling products for children?

Then your web design must have yellow, green, or any other vibrant color in the spectrum.

If you want to see which color combinations and placements would help your site generate leads and conversions, you must do some A/B testing as well.

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