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How Color Theory Can Help Your Bounce Rate

by | Jul 20, 2022 | Strategy

History of color theory

The history behind color theory is as diverse as the color spectrum itself. Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, theorized that colors were sent from the Gods themselves through rays of light. He thought that all colors emanated from black and white, and related colors to the different elements: earth, air, water, and fire. For over 2,000 years, these ideas held until another great mind offered his theory.

Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of “Opticks,” developed in 1704, was focused on prisms. This was an experiment that involved a stream of visible light that could be separated into different colors. This led Newton to conclude that there are three primary colors from which all other colors emerge: red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors, which are a mix of the primary colors, consist of purple, orange, and green. This gave shape to the color wheel we know today that is used to figure out what colors best complement each other. An example of this would be green and red. Since they are opposite of each other, they look good together. Think of Christmas.

Sir Isaac Newton's "Theory of Opticks" focused on prisms

The German philosopher, poet, and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took a more philosophical approach to color, which he explained in his 1810 publication, “Theory of Colors.” Goethe’s view was that darkness wasn’t an absence of light, but rather a polar of light and that colors could be assigned emotional reactions based on an individual’s perception. The result was Goethe’s color wheel, which allowed for more complementary colors.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe gave us the modern Color Wheel

With the theories established by these great minds and the technology we have today, color theorists and researchers believe there are roughly 10 million different shades, hues, and pigments of colors. This is an astounding number and a far cry from the color wheel first introduced by Sir Isaac Newton. Modern color theory, backed by experiments, suggests that of the 1,000 shades of light, there are 100 different levels of red-green shades and another 100 different levels of yellow-blue shades. So, 1000 x 100 x 100 = 10,000,000. And these are only the colors that can be seen by the human eye!

How do colors make someone feel?

Colors are everywhere. We are surrounded by them. We use them every day, sometimes without much thought. When thinking about color, do you ever associate them with feelings? Maybe it’s a spring day and the sun is out, so you wear something yellow to be sunny and joyful as well. When designing a website, there has to be a purpose behind the colors that are chosen. This goes back to the work of Goethe.

When someone comes to a financial website, the last thing they want to see is a website that has neon colors. So you’d want to stay away from colors such as reds, yellows, and oranges. These colors, though passionate and strong, also tend to evoke anger or rage feeling. That is why most banking websites use blues or greens. Blues and greens are seen as calming and offer a feeling of well-being.

How do colors make people feel?
So now, armed with the knowledge that colors can evoke strong emotions, let’s dig deeper. The following is how certain colors can potentially make someone feel:

Red – This color feels of domination and offers a sense of higher awareness. It can increase blood circulation, breathing, and even metabolism. Applied sparingly, it can be used to great effect.

Orange – Being a shade of red, it shares its energizing aspects but offers a touch of relaxedness. But it can seem more playful and add youthfulness to a website. It also has the potential of being an impulse color.

Yellow – This happy or friendly color has a surprising dark side to it. It can trigger feelings of anxiety. The lighter shades make people think of spring or summer, while the darker shades may seem reminiscent of sepia tones and yellow faded papers, and photographs. Use this one sparingly as well.

Green – A color now largely associated with environmental concerns, green finds its way onto websites focused on the environment and sustainability. Some sites use this color as a CTA (call to action) because it stands out fairly easily against other colors.

Blue – One can see why blue is the most popular color in web design. This color is known for trustworthiness, friendliness, and it can also seem inviting. This may be why it’s used by such established brands as IBM, Facebook, and Twitter.

Purple – The color of royalty. Luxury brands and those looking to evoke elegance and high-end appeal are perfect arenas for this color.

Pink – Being a very niche market color, it won’t work for everyone. However, if used with the right brand design and messaging, it’s like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together. A more feminine, young color, it conjures ideas of sugary treats.

Brown – Strong, rustic, and earthy, brown is associated with sturdiness, dependability, and comfort. It’s another color that requires careful application.

Black – Strong and powerful, it’s a color that can add sophistication to a website. This color doesn’t only have to be used for fonts but can be employed as an impactful background color. Black is often used to show elegance, as with brands such as Rolls-Royce or Rolex.

White – The color of doctors’ coats. Clean, healthy, and pure, this is often used as a background color for most websites. White space is great, and can even make other colors “pop.” If used correctly, white can be used to help guide the reader’s eye.

Now that you have a better understanding of how colors can make someone feel, let’s look at ways you should NOT use colors.

How not to use colors on a web page

How to not use colors on a web page

Light on light. Using light-colored text on a light-colored background is setting yourself up for failure. Visitors to your website will take three seconds to realize they aren’t able to read anything and they’ll leave – and likely not ever come back! You don’t want something like this, no one can read.

Neon colors. The ’80s and ’90s are over, and so is the use of neon fonts. Gone are the days of the black background colors and neon green font. At one point this was the way to go for websites. OMG. The best way to use neon is to NOT use neon. However, if you must, use it extremely sparingly.

Rainbow connection. This combination of colors is too much for practically any website. If you have rainbow colors on your website, the lead might not know where to look, there’s just way too much going on. Truth be told, some of these letters can barely be seen.

Color Blind

It’s also helpful when selecting colors for your website design to keep in mind that roughly 300 million people in the world are color blind. That’s approximately 1.3 million in the U.S. alone, some of whom are likely your potential customers.

Your website is out there for millions to see. When considering your site’s color combinations, think about those who aren’t able to see the full spectrum. It could be good practice to use grayscale to determine if everything is easy to see and read. For example, in their original state, red and green appear very different. However, when placed in grayscale, they look quite similar. There is an extension that Google has that can help with this issue.

Colors aren’t just colors

There is a lot to color psychology, more than what is described here. Don’t let it overwhelm you though. Just remember to be thoughtful in your design planning, create a solid color palette that fits the design, and follow some of the advice here, your bounce rates should go down significantly.

People are coming to your website so you can help them with their problems. If your site doesn’t look good or is just too overwhelming, they won’t care if your service is their best option. They will leave and find someone else.

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