Website Redesign Process: Colors

The big picture in the website redesign includes basic layout decisions and it also includes branding.

Deloitte recently did a book on branding that listed the following elements:

  • Name
  • Tagline
  • Tone of voice
  • Logo
  • Color
  • Typography
  • Imagery
  • Composition
  • Iconography
  • Information graphics
  • Sound

This is a good list to think about us you plan a website redesign. Today, let’s think about just one of these things: color.

There’s plenty of information about color psychology around. Interestingly enough, most of it doesn’t fess up to the fact that there is very little actual data supporting the claims commonly made. That is, there is little to no evidence that red is exciting or that blue makes people feel calm.

There is a lot of evidence that we associate colors with things, however, and that we use that information in decision making. Some colors are strongly associated in consumers’ minds with certain fields or products, for example. This information should certainly inform your choices when it comes to color in your company website.

A power tool company that decides to go with pink and silver for their website is an unusual power tool company. What’s more, they may find that visitor’s bounce away quickly, since that one big question web visitors have — “Am I in the right place?” — has been answered for many in their first glimpse of pink.

Beyond the associations of colors, color is one of the most subjective decisions in a website redesign. Search engines do not use color as a factor in deciding what website to offer to searchers, and while usability is certainly affected by color, it’s more about levels of contrast than about specific hues.

For our company website, the initial color decision was left entirely up to the designer. At the time, most websites for web professionals were black and/or blue, and I just said I didn’t want those colors. I was doing something different from the average web design company and I wanted to look completely different. The designer created a warm, red-brown and gold website.

When it was time for a redesign, I had those colors used to create a logo — the usual starting point for web design —  and we asked the designer to go lighter. For our current redesign, we had a brief group chat about color and then instructed Tom Hapgood, our designer, to do whatever he wanted.

As you can see, we represent one side of the continuum. My feeling is that it doesn’t make sense to hire an artist and then get in his way with restrictions. The other side of the continuum is the client who specifies a palette of colors and asks the designer to work within those colors. This can be for good reasons, such as corporate requirements for colors, or for whimsical reasons like, “I don’t know anything about web design, so this is my input.”

It can also be that you love color and care a lot about it, and want your artistic sensibilities to inform the design even if you’re not the one building it. Or that you are using a theme or template and choosing the color is your part in building it.

The first edition of The Web Designer’s Idea Book has separate sections discussing and illustrating the use of various colors in websites. You might also enjoy these blog posts:

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