How to choose colors for your website design


When it comes to web design, the colors you choose for your site are the first things visitors will see and contribute to their first impression of your business. That’s why it’s important that you spend some time thinking about which colors represent your business the best.

Choose the right colors when designing your website.

Color choice is one of the most important decisions you'll make when designing your website.

Some businesses end up choosing colors that reflect the personal tastes of the owner. If the business owner’s favorite color is green, that person might opt for a website that is primarily green. But keep in mind that there is a lot of psychology that goes with colors, and what you choose can have an effect -- good or bad -- on visitors to your site.

What does each color convey in your web design?

Each color is associated with a certain emotion. When you’re designing your site, keep these in mind.

  • Red: energy, passion, excitement, power; also implies aggression, danger.
  • Blue: coolness, spirituality, freedom, patience, loyalty, peace, trustworthiness; can also imply sadness, depression.
  • Yellow: light, optimism, happiness, brightness, joy.
  • Green: life, naturalness, restfulness, health, wealth, prosperity; in certain contexts, can imply decay, toxicity.
  • Orange: friendliness, warmth, approachability, energy, playfulness, courage.
  • Violet: wisdom, sophistication, celebration.
  • White: purity, cleanliness, youth, freshness, peace.
  • Black: power, elegance, secrecy, mystery.
  • Gray: security, maturity, reliability.
  • Pink: romance; a feminine color.
  • Brown: comfort, strength, stability, credibility.

If your business is selling a financial product, then blue (trustworthiness) would be a good choice for your web design’s dominant color. If you’re selling children’s toys, then yellow or orange might be a good option. The best color for your web design may not be one of your favorites, but remember, your website is for your visitors, not for you. Choosing the right color can be the difference between a new customer and a lost opportunity.

Keep your text to simple colors

When it comes to text, make sure visitors can read what you have to say. Black text on a white background provides the best contrast. Everyone has seen a nightmare site where someone tried to be clever by putting white text on a red background or some other combination that results in more eyestrain than conversions.

Colors are important, but keep them in your design elements and out of your text. No matter how good the colors look, if the text is hard to read, visitors will move on.

Limit the number of colors you use

Choosing appropriate colors that send visitors the right message and build your brand is important, and part of that is limiting the number of colors you use. You want one primary color and a handful of complementary colors, probably no more than two or three in most cases. Any more than that and you risk creating a rainbow of confusion about what your business does.

Also, don’t forget about people with color blindness. About 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women are color blind, so make sure your site is readable to that portion of the population. There are free tools available online to help you.

Know your audience and avoid stereotypes

Part of picking the right colors involves knowing who your target audience is. If you’re selling primarily to men, your color choices will be different than if you’re trying to appeal to women or teens. Spend time figuring out who your customers are, which in turn, will help guide many of your website design choices.

However, be wary of stereotyping your audience. If your primary customer is female, do not assume your site should be pink. Research shows that blue is the most popular color with woman, so focusing on pink could prove to be a mistake.

If you’re selling to a diverse audience, you’ll have to choose colors that are appealing to all of your customers.

Color choice in web design goes well beyond what you think looks best. There are proven emotional responses associated with each color, and design needs to provoke the right response while still being true to the brand. So when you are designing your website, be sure to choose your colors wisely.

(For an interesting read on colors and how Pantone standardized them so we are all speaking the same color language, see this post.)

Matt Beargie is the web developer for Emerge Inc. If you have questions about web design, contact him at

Emerge is an Avon Lake (Lorain County)-based provider of web, mobile and content solutions, and serves the communities of Avon, Avon Lake, Lorain, Elyria, Wellington, Grafton, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake and all of the Western Cleveland suburbs.


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