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7 Colour Scheme Tips When Designing A Website

Mike O'Raw

Designer

Author Image: Mike O'Raw
colour palettes to use when designing a website
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Designing a website is a complex process. Often, colour schemes are swept under the rug as an exercise in branding. I mean, how hard can it be? Pick the colours that match the logo and you’re done, right?

Well, not exactly. 

You see, the colours you choose for your website have a bigger impact on visitor perception than you might realise. We’re simple beings at heart. And our brains are wired to respond to visuals sixty thousand times faster than text. Add that to the fact that colours can increase comprehension and improve recall by around 75% and you start to see how important this decision is. It’s not a stretch to say that whatever you choose could either make or break your online efforts. 

The truth is the right colour combinations can add a high level of credibility and trust to your brand with very little upkeep. That’s an amazingly high ROI and one that will just keep performing for however long you use it.

Research suggests that simple is best. Just two or three colours that accurately represent your brand and catch the eye could be all you need to win a customer over. Take a look at some of the biggest brands in the world. The household names. They know this. They keep it simple. 

It doesn’t matter if you are at the start of your online journey or you are looking to improve your current website. By revisiting your choice of colour palette to reflect current consumer preference and demand you are thinking along the lines of some of the most successful business people of our generation. They understood the big picture. And now you will too. 

Take a look at some of these web design colour trends for 2019 and see how they apply to you. 

Soft Palettes

Softness is a key theme this year. Subtle colours that represent style, class and a certain chicness are working well for luxury products and brands that want to position themselves as high end. The key here is to use simple colours and to strategically use white space to draw eyeballs to your offering. Depending on industry, a combination of soft tones and minimal text can bring the best out of visuals and provide the website visitor with a feeling of exclusivity.

image of soft colour palettes

Two colours that work well together to provide this effect is simple grey and off white. By using sharp visuals against this subtle backdrop you are providing a sense of elegance whilst giving your product the best chance to shine. 

Pastels

To carry on with the idea of minimalism from the previous point – yes, it’s been around for a while now. Easy colours and simple layouts have been a staple for a few years. This doesn’t mean they should be discounted, however. In 2019 this idea of “less stuff, more substance” is still going strong and we can see this in the current demand for pastel colours. 

image of pastel colour palettes

Pastels are popular because they are consistent with the concept of “softness” we mentioned previously and are deceptively comforting on the eye. When we use colours like mint, mauve and baby blue we are communicating a sense of solidity and trust to the website visitors. We are not out to shock them. We are calm, we are sophisticated and we can deliver what you are here for. 

Gradients 

Once upon a time gradients were one of the most popular web design colour trends. In a field limited by its technology they were seen as a great way to add depth and substance to websites. 

When the flat design trend began towards the end of the 2000s gradients suddenly became archaic and overlooked. 

using gradients when designing a website

Gradients are now being used to enhance our flat designs and add texture to bland layouts. We truly have come full circle. 

Why have gradients made such a comeback? They’re versatile for one. There are tons of opportunities to use them in web design. You could use soft colours to add subtlety and sophistication. Or you can go all out, be bolder, and give your site a look that screams uniqueness. 

The trick here, as always, is to choose the right colours. Research colour theory and colour psychology and pick colours that “work” together, from an attraction perspective. Yes, gradients are there to be experimented with but they work best when used within a framework of proven principles. 

Just ask Instagram. Their logo is a gradient masterpiece. 

Vivid and Retro 

Just like fashion, design trends tend to repeat themselves. Now that the web has been around for some time, we are starting to see some nostalgic “throwback” colour schemes that are not only gorgeous but are having a powerful impact in the market. 

retro colour palletes in websites

Despite the leaning towards softer palettes this year vivid colours – inspired, no doubt, by the current 80s and 90s nostalgia – are making a strong comeback. Many large brands have picked up on this and have gone heavy on the sentimentalism. Perhaps the most well known is Spotfy, who have been using warm orange and red tones. This is not only great web design but masterful marketing. They are a prime example of knowing their audience and what their product is generally used for. We use music to reflect, right? We use it to remember and remind ourselves of simpler times. Spotify knows this and they reflect it in everything, right down to the comforting colours they use on their homepage. 

Going retro can be risky but the payoff could be huge if you get it right. If you think this is the right move for you be sure to do your research first and get a clear picture of what your audience wants and expects. Take a look into generational marketing and choose the colours that have the most impact on your target age group (if relevant to your industry).

Futuristic Pastels and Primaries

Just as we are getting all warm and cosy with our memories we are blasted into the future.

That’s because futuristic pastels are also trending hard this year. We’re talking silvers, whites, baby blues…

Anything that feels clean and, well, space-age

Pastels and Primaries colour palletes

Because that’s what we are now, right? A space-faring species. Well, we will be if Elon Musk has anything to say about it. 

With all the talk about AI, rockets and new technology breakthroughs it is hardly surprising we are moving in this direction. Take advantage of what is already in your customer’s minds and appeal to their hope for a brighter future with a colour palette that reflects this sentiment. 

Technology companies are doing this already. One of the most popular options is gradient blue and green with white text. The payment processor Stripe is a good example of this. The site looks futuristic, clean, fast and serious – everything that their prospective customer (most likely a small to medium-sized business owner) wants. 

Lots of Red

Take a look at many of the most popular website builds of the year and you will notice a lot of red being used. It is only recently that red has shaken off the “warning” and “danger” connotations and become a colour that can be used to add character and flair to a website. 

using red when designing a website

Red is also being combined effectively with more muted tones to draw the eye and add a touch of boldness to otherwise calm colour schemes. Yellows, blues and bright oranges have been used with red effectively to offset its overpowering glare and add balance to the page. 

Red is new. It is modern and bold and can be a great choice if it is in line with your brand and customer perception. Use it sparingly, with softer tones, and watch how your design comes to life.

Conclusion 

Colour can make us think and do certain things. The mere presence of red, for instance, has been shown capable of increasing our pulse and adrenaline levels. Orange and yellow can make us happy. It’s a primal, subconscious response that we have no real control over. 

Marketers have known this for years. That’s why they target advertising for different seasons of the year, or use specific colours to remain consistent with the public perception of certain events (red, white and green at Christmas, anyone?). Now, as a web designer, you know it too. 

There are a few ways you can get smarter about colour schemes. First, do your research. Read everything you can regarding colour psychology. Then, ask your customers. What colours do they like? What colours do they think reflect your brand and industry? Of course only you can make the decision at the end of the day. But by putting this groundwork in you are doing what 95% of the other businesses in your niche will not do and, consequently, significantly improving your chances of success. 

What colour schemes do you feel work well together?

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