How to Strategically Use Color in Website Design


Colors are all around us. They make an integral aspect of how we perceive and experience our surroundings. Since most of us see and experience colors from the moment we are born, we usually tend to take them for granted.

That’s why we don’t often think about the true power of colors and the way in which they can affect our mood or even change our perception of certain things or experiences.

That being said, it becomes quite clear that colors make one of the most powerful tools in any designer’s kit. Deciding to use a particular color scheme when designing a website truly has the power to either make or break the design. For that reason, designers need to be very careful when choosing the right website colors.

But, before we move on to exploring some of the best strategies for choosing the right website colors, we must first learn the basics and a bit more about different colors and color combinations.

The color theory

In order to better understand how colors work and why some of them are considered to be a better choice than others, we must first talk about the color theory.

Simply put, color theory refers to a combination of science and art that is mostly centered around trying to understand how certain colors or color combinations affect our brains. Here, the main goal is not only to try and identify colors that will make certain aspects of the website stand out. Instead, it also focuses on the potential psychological impact of using certain color combinations and even images.

As previously mentioned, color plays a huge role in website design. If a website features great usability, is fast and easy to navigate, and has all the other crucial web elements nailed to the tee but is also full of unattractive colors, it will quickly lose its relevance. That’s why it’s extremely important that website designers pay special attention to this theory when choosing the right website colors.

That being said, with the help of the color theory, designers can easily identify colors and color pairings that will create a harmonious design that will not only be pleasant to look at, but it will also have the power to drive forth certain emotions, which will – in turn – result in certain reactions.

To make things a bit clearer, let’s take a look at the “ketchup and mustard” theory. According to this theory, the color red is believed to kick-start our appetite, while the color yellow is associated with feel-good energy and positive vibes. Needless to say, that’s precisely why some of the major food chains chose this color combo in particular when designing their brand.

The rules of the color theory are most commonly depicted in a color wheel. Here, you can easily see different colors and hues and see how they interact with each other. This will be of great help when deciding upon a color scheme, as you can instantly pair the colors together and see if – and how well – they go with one another.

Most commonly, some of the best color schemes used in the design can be divided into 4 main categories:

Monochromatic schemes

A monochromatic design focuses on using different hues or tints of a single color. This type of design is usually quite simple to create, but it can be pretty effective. Even though a monochromatic design can look quite simplistic, it’s often considered to be very authoritative and even soothing. Since there’s not too much going on with the design itself, the main focus is usually drawn to the content of the website itself.

Analogous schemes

Analogous schemes focus on combining colors and shades that are adjacent to one another on the color wheel. This type of design is usually well-blended and bright. Since the colors most commonly feature the same light ray wavelength, they are quite easy on the eye. So, orange-yellow-green or red-orange-yellow combos, for instance, can be a great example of this type of color scheme.

Complementary schemes

When talking about complementary color schemes, we’re talking about color schemes that are designed using colors and hues that are opposite to each other on the color wheel. So, combinations like red and green, blue and orange, or purple and yellow are just some of the examples of such color combos. However, even though this color scheme can be quite engaging and energetic when done right, it is certainly not the easiest one to achieve.

Triadic schemes

Triadic color schemes – as the name suggests – rely on using three colors from the color wheel that are equally distanced apart from each other. These color schemes are some of the most popular ones, particularly in the digital space. However, it’s important to mention that primary-color-based triads can easily seem too aggressive and overwhelming. That’s why secondary colors are more commonly used in this type of design.

With all that being said, let’s now see how we can strategically use color in website design to drive the intended results.

website colors

Focus attention

You can use color in website design to draw attention to a particular part of your website. So, if your overall website features a monochromatic design – particularly if it’s centered around the grayscale – you can easily use color to draw the eye of the visitor around the page. That’s why CTA (call to action) buttons are most commonly brightly colored and really stand out from the rest of the design.

Showcase personality

Since colors can also set the mood and the tone of the website by evoking certain emotions in visitors, you can also use them to showcase your brand persona. For instance, you can use soft, pastel hues to emphasize the delicate nature of your brand. Subdued hues also evoke feelings of authority, while brighter and more vibrant colors are more commonly associated with brands that feel youthful and energetic.

Make a statement

You can also use color in your website design to make a statement. If you feel like your business is not necessarily following all the expected norms of the industry, you can also break the rules a bit when it comes to choosing your website colors. For instance, while you can certainly aim at colors that will provide the experience your audience may be expecting from your brand, you can also choose to step outside the box and greet them with a design that will be completely outside the norm. While this may sometimes be tricky to achieve, it will certainly encourage your visitors to take notice.

Focus on flow and cohesion

Finally, you also need to make sure you keep focus and cohesion in mind when choosing the colors for your website. Thinking outside the box is great, but you shouldn’t really go overboard. So, make sure that all the colors and hues you decide to use work well with each other. The last thing you want to end up with is a website design that feels too disjointed and random, as it can easily deter your visitors from exploring your site further.

 As you can probably tell, there’s not a single rule when it comes to choosing the right colors for your website design that can be applied to all. Instead, you need to think about what you’re trying to achieve with your website, the emotions you intend to evoke, as well as the way in which you wish to be perceived by the audience. Once you determine these, choosing the right website colors for your web will become far easier.