By Virtual Mechanics
| When we view a web site,
the colors will evoke an emotional response at some level. That
emotion could encourage a visitor to explore deeper or to move
on faster. The correct response depends upon your objective.
The first thing to realize is that color is a perceived experience.
When someone asks you what your favorite color is, you may or
may not be sure but you can be certain that there are some color
experiences that you like better than others. In other words,
colors and color combinations can be perceived as good or bad
and will play a significant role in determining how your web
design is perceived.
A less obvious perception is if the color choice is perceived
to be right or wrong. In this case, the color combinations may
be good but wrong for the purpose. Music can be used as a good
analogy. You may like heavy metal rock but it will probably
generate the wrong reaction if used at a funeral. Colors can
invoke an emotional reaction in people in exactly the same way.
The emotional responses generated by music are usually quite
obvious and easily understood: happy, sad, exciting, introspective
and so on. Elevators are small, crowded claustrophobic spaces.
It is no coincidence that elevator music is perceived to be
simple and unexciting. You just do not want to get people excited
in an elevator. Grocery stores often switch between fast tempo
music when they are busy and slow easygoing music when it is
quite. In the first instance they want you to get your stuff
and get out. In the second instance they want you to take your
time and hopefully buy more.
Color works in the same way but their effects are harder to
appreciate and more easily overlooked by most people. Although
both color and music can generate a direct emotional response
in people, color is more easily influenced by fashion. Colors
that can remind us of a time or place can evoke an emotion related
to that experience. Many of these are quite personal and beyond
the control of a designer. Others however, can be tied to a
common experience. These include the psychedelic colors of the
sixties, the pastel colors of the tropics, the colors of autumn,
colors associated with a popular recent movie and so on.
How a passage of music is perceived usually crosses generation
and ethnic experiences. You may not like classical music but
you will still experience the emotions associated with a slow
sad ballad. Colors are far less definitive. The colors used
in India are far different than the colors used in the industrial
north and the colors used in the tropical south. They will evoke
different emotions for people from these different regions.
Deciding which colors to paint an elevator is consequently a
lot harder than deciding which music to play.
For what it is worth, there are some universal elements associated
with color. Red for example is considered to be warm, blue is
cold and green is neutral. Red also tends to make a space appear
smaller while blue tends to enlarge a space. Red will excite,
blue will depress and green will relax. Although this may also
be obvious and simplistic for many people, they are valid.
If you visit some of the major web site such as Microsoft, you
will observe that their color choices are no accident. They
have probably undertaken extensive research on the effects of
the colors that they have chosen. In addition to using the Web
Safe colors, they are being careful to ensure that they elicit
the desired emotional response. In their case I suspect that
they want you to believe that they are Big, Stable and Professional.
Disney on the other hand, wants Big, Stable and Fun.
The emotional effect of color is a huge topic by itself and
has undergone significant psychological research that is undoubtedly
used by the major corporations such as Microsoft and Disney.
Before you let that overwhelm you however, keep in mind that
color use is fashionable. Innovative use of color often starts
at the bottom. The large companies simply follow the lead as
it becomes fashionable.
As a final note, the brain has a tendency to acclimatize to
a color scheme. That is, if you look at the world through rose-colored
glasses your brain will simply start to interpret the colors
as normal. Your brain would consequently interpret a light rose
color as being white and would not realize that it has a light
rose tint unless it is viewed next to a pure white. This fact
can be used to elicit a subliminal emotional response from people.
If you use a very light red tint for your web site it may appear
warm (or cramped). A blue tint may cause your site to appear
cold (or open). Unfortunately I cannot tell you which one if
either, is best for your site.
Source: "IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for
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