In the global world of online commerce, design is a language in its own right. From guiding the flow of web traffic, to highlighting and emphasising products, services, and options, how you look is increasingly an influence on how you sell. And, in the digital realm, colour is a key component of this unwritten language.
Unlike the written word, the vocabulary of colour is a more complex language to translate. Our interpretations of colours are infused with cultural contexts and learned responses. So is colour really a universal language?
Colour Theory and Culture
Colour is linked with memory and association. Our responses are often ingrained through learning, rather than inherent traits, although this learning can itself come from nature. Green is healthy; blue is peaceful. Red is seen as vibrant, but also urgent: which is why it is so widely used for discount sale signs in shops, and also warning signs.
Colour in commerce can affect our assumptions too: we see blue and teal as signs of dependability and honesty, and these are the colours most commonly associated with banking brands. But do we see blue in this way because it is used by banks? Equally, certain brands have made the colour orange synonymous with dependability and value for money, yet in some communities, orange is also a divisive emblem of political loyalties.
So the challenge for any design agency with an eye on web-based commerce is this: when you sell online, you sell to the whole world. How can you strike a compromise between the many differing interpretations of your brand’s colour palette?
The Psychology of the Perfect Palette
Using colour to focus the eye and influence navigation is one matter. But when it comes to converting mouse clicks into cash, this is where colour theory really becomes interesting. Because there are clear examples where colour most definitely is a universal language.
This is where an understanding of colour palettes can really be converted into profit. A good digital design agency will know how to use colour to direct attention; a great one will know how to create a meaning. A fantastic case study to illustrate this is the re-branding of McDonald’s restaurants, from red to green. The company faced criticism for being too aggressive in its business practices, and that their products had become unhealthy. Out went the domineering and dangerous red; in came the calm and natural deep green. The company reversed a downward trend and the strategy is considered one of the most successful top tier re-brandings of recent years.
So, which colours are best for online conversion? That all depends on your objectives. And – as with all matters of colour – context is king. One interesting question to ask of your palette is this: will your colours be a prompt, or a problem solver? In the example given above, the brand used colour to address a perceived problem with their image. In doing so, they relied on the broadest, most universal interpretations of very bold colours. If your brand is strong, but you are routinely failing to complete sales due to an indistinct layout, colour can be a prompt: bold and urgent contrast hues that direct the customer’s eye towards completing the purchase. So whether you are building a brand identity, or simply improving your end-user experience, think about how you can be communicating in colour.
Image Credit: http://www.1stwebdesigner.com