Selecting The Right Colours For Your Website
Selecting the right colours for your website is perhaps a more complex process than you might expect. The colours you use will set the mood for your website. It's very important that you choose them carefully to create the feelings and associations you want for your business, as well as providing a comfortable, non-intrusive and harmonious environment for your visitors to browse.
First, consider the mood and associations you wish to invoke. Think of some keywords associated with your business, and reflect on which colours spring to mind. For some businesses, it should be easy: if you run a wedding catering service, for example, white and pale pink or blue will probably seem most appropriate. High technology might be associated in your mind with silver or blue. Red and pink are generally identified with romance. Green is sometimes associated with nature, or with money.
When you've conjured up the colours you most closely associate with your business, consider whether you want to give your visitors precisely what they expect, or whether you would like to surprise them with unexpected colours. You should use your discretion in this regard. If you run a wedding-related business, it will probably be best to cater to the expectations of your visitors, simply because there is a lot of tradition associated with weddings. Again, if you sell toys on your website, bright, exciting colours are going to attract children more than muted, elegant ones.
However, some colour schemes are increasingly becoming clichéd. While silver and blue may seem the most obvious choices for your software company, you will be reflecting the design of dozens of your competitors' websites. In this case, it might be better to go for something out of the ordinary.
Once you've considered the general colour associations you wish to make with your website, you should have a look at a colour wheel to choose shades which will complement one another effectively. A colour wheel is a circle with the three primary colours – red, blue and yellow – placed evenly around the edge.
In between each of these is the associated secondary colour, created by mixing the two primary colours on either side of it. Between red and yellow is orange, between yellow and blue is green, and between blue and red is purple. Between each of these six basic colours is a further set of tertiary colours, which again are made by mixing the colours either side of them.
There are three tried-and-true ways of selecting colours using a colour wheel. The first is to choose two colours which are opposite one another on the wheel. These are called complementary pairs: red and green, yellow and purple, or blue and orange. As you can see, the designers at Domainmonster.com have used this technique to create the orange and blue colour scheme for the website. (Bear in mind the associations of red and green with Christmas when choosing complementary colours.)
You could also try a "split complement". Select a pair of complementary colours, but then for one of the pair, use the two colours either side of it on the colour wheel instead. Essentially you will end up with two similar colours and a colour which complements them both well.
If you feel you need three contrasting colours for your site, you can choose a triad: three colours spaced equally on the colour wheel. Avoid using the primary colours if you choose this option.
Don't forget that black, white, and shades of grey can also be useful on your website. Many of the best-looking websites are mostly white, with a single contrasting colour for highlights and graphics. This can look extremely clean, fresh and simple, as well as stylish.
Generally speaking, you should avoid a dark background colour, because text can be difficult to read, and a very dark website can feel somewhat oppressive. Ideally, text should always be black or very dark.
Avoid placing very bright colours directly next to one another. Bright red and bright blue or bright green in particular can be difficult to look at.
You might also want to avoid the standard 16 colours because they may remind your site visitors of websites designed in 1998! Aside from this, they are mostly very bright, or just not very attractive.
If in doubt, look at some of your favourite website designs for inspiration. Good colour schemes are striking but also harmonious. Remember that, as with any aspect of good site design, your colours should be pleasing to the eye but not overly intrusive. Your visitors are there for your content, first and foremost, and you should not distract them if you can help it.