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  • What is Color Psychology In UX design? Improving User Experience With Colors

Color psychology in UX is an important tool in creating UI elements like buttons design, navigation, and CTAs, among many others. These elements are all important in convincing one’s decision to make a purchase and also in establishing brand communication towards users. Since color is considered as the easiest element to remember in terms of encountering new things, this element is applied in UX as well as marketing. 

This article, What is Color Psychology In UX design? Improving User Experience With Colors will tackle how the color wheel affects the psychology of people not only in terms of user experience design but also in marketing, sales, and conversion. 

So let us take a closer look. 


The importance of color psychology

As I have mentioned, colors are a widely used element in marketing and UX. The explanation behind this is simple: they stimulate our vision, which is directly connected to the brain, where it immediately provokes emotions and reactions. 

There are studies that show how certain shades contribute to specific emotions and this is the reason why there are companies who apply color psychology to influence their target audience.

Quicksprout’s article laid out several reasons why it is important to apply psychology of colors in sales and marketing. It explains:

  • Colors can help your website/design stand out by grabbing the user’s attention by using the right color combination
  • Visual dimensions greatly affect the buying decision of users
  • People can assess something through color alone (important tip to remember for brands and products)
  • A study showed that magazine readers can recognize a full color ad compared to a black and white ad
  • A change of color in the advertisement alone can increase sales  

The above reasons showed us that color affects people in so many ways. Even psychologists suggested that color impression accounts for 60% of the acceptance or rejection of a product. Thus, a bad color combination can greatly affect the whole user experience, with the same effect as a bad copy or a slow page loading time. 


How do colors create emotions and direct attention

With the many colors and color mixes available, it can be a challenge to determine which color or color combinations have a good impact on your website or product design. 

Our team at Userpeek consolidated some important tips and tricks that you can apply for your UX design. Check out the following psychology of colors below to learn the meaning of each color:


Cool colors

Cool Colors

Cool colors often imply calm and tranquil emotions. They may also give the impression of coldness and impersonality. 

TIP: Combine cool colors with warm or neutral color for balance.

Blue is sober and discreet and gives confidence to the customer in relation to the design.

Green is fresh and represents health.

Purple is the color mostly used in spas, beauty, and wellness as it can mean spirituality.

Silver is often associated with brands in technology. It represents the color of innovation and modernity.


Warm colors

Warm Colors

Warm colors trigger strong emotions like energy and vigor. 

TIP: Be careful in using only warm colors in your design. This can trigger unwanted emotions like aggression. So like cool colors, it is best to combine other color shades with warm colors.

Red is widely used in promotional campaigns like a product sale. The color red is one of the strongest warm colors as it can easily stand out from the rest of the color group. Red is also used to catch the user’s attention. However, be cautious in using this color as red can trigger aggression as an emotion.

Pink is used in brands promoting women, children and also sweet foods. This color may also mean innovation and differentiation that can be used for campaigns that arouse the interest of the consumers in knowing the product.

Yellow is also used to attract attention (aside from red). This color is also used in creating CTAs to get attention and focus from the users.

Orange is mostly used for brands that promote youth, energy, and creativity. 

Gold usually means wealth and power.


Neutral colors

Neutral colors

Neutral colors are commonly used as backgrounds in design since they soften the other colors. The colors under neutrals are a perfect combination to cool and warm shades.   

Brown is associated with elegance and sophistication so you will notice that most luxury brands have this color in their logos. Brown color can also mean nature and rustic, thus, a good color choice for organic products. 

Beige promotes the feeling of comfort and coziness. This color is widely used as interior color for walls, curtains, rugs, and etc. 

Gray implies professionalism and responsibility. It can also mean technology and modernity.     

White means harmony and light. It is a perfect prominent color for websites, especially in blog sites and ecommerce. 

Black means power, strength, elegance, and also mystery. This color is widely used as text color for better readability.


Users respond differently to colors

Users have different reactions to colors and shades and this difference varies on age, and gender. Cultural differences also play a role in psychology of colors. We can say that we all have color preferences. However, there are similarities of preferences among same age groups, between genders, and cultures. 

Recommended: Watch Andrew Hanson's Physics and Psychology of Colour below to understand how we see and experience colors based on the physics of light:   

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Age

Faber Birren’s Color Psychology came up with a research of which colors are desirable for people specific to age. Birren found out that the colors blue and red are consistent colors preferred in all age groups. Yellow on the other hand is preferred by younger age groups. And as we grow older, we favor more shorter wavelength tones like blue, violet, and green color rather than the stronger shades of red and yellow.   

Color popularity by age group

In the chart above, it shows that most audiences prefer energetic and saturated tones. However, older people think these colors are repulsive. The study tells us that when designing colors for the older age group, we should be careful with using too many bright shades as these can decrease in the conversion rate. 


Gender

There are studies that show men and women have varying preferences in colors, however, this research on color perception indicates that men like bright colors and women like softer shades

In addition, Joe Halllock’s Colour Assignment showcases certain color preferences among men and women:


Men’s and women’s favorite colors

Men’s and women’s favorite colors

Men’s and women’s least favorite colors

Men’s and women’s least favorite colors


It is important to note that Hallock’s data came mostly from Western respondents and environmental factors can have an effect on these preferences, which leads us to another factor that plays a strong role in color preferences in genders—cultural differences. 


Cultural differences

Cultural background can influence our color preferences too. Aside from this, the color meanings can also vary from cultures. Like for example, in the West, white means innocence, aspiration, and hope. In Asia, however, white color is for death, mourning, and bad luck. You can look at the table below to check the color meanings of different cultures:

meaning of colors by culture

Cultural meanings of colors

As a UX designer, you need to be aware of these cultural connotations, especially if you are marketing for a specific location or culture group.


How do brands use color psychology

The colors that you see in big brands today are not made by coincidence. All of them use color psychology to make sure that their logos are easily recognized and better remembered by their consumers. This is how companies get branded. Here are some examples of brands that apply psychology of colors: 

color emotion guide

McDonalds uses yellow for their brand, which evokes happiness and optimism. Victoria Secret and Barbie both use pink color that attracts the female audience. As previously said, pink is associated with femininity and childhood. The blue color is eminent for Facebook and Paypal logos, which mean stability and trust. The New York Times and Prada both use black on their logos, which spells out power, luxury, and sophistication.    

However, color is just one element when it comes to branding. Established UX experts often use schemas as well to make sure that they deliver the right message. Like for example, Google, who always make sure that all their designs follow color schemas in their guidelines

On the other hand, there are also brands who use colors to challenge schema. In advertising for example, there are companies who use certain shades to deliver a message. There are companies who change or enhance their brand coloring that they are identified with to get a certain perception from their users.  

Do not get confused with how schemas and colors work. Both are essential elements in UX design. Schemas are used to challenge a user’s perception of a product or brand, while the psychology of colors controls the user’s emotions to make an influence. As long as the “message” sticks to your audience, you can play with these two elements to make your audience remember the message. 


How color affects conversion rates  

What are the colors that sell? How can we apply psychology of colors in business and which ones are going to boost the conversion rates? Before we answer these questions, here are fun facts taken from Quicksprout’s article:

  • 92.6% of people say the visual dimension is the #1 influencing factor affecting their purchase decision (over taste, smell, etc.).

  • Studies suggest that people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds of initial viewing. Up to 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.

  • One study found that magazine readers recognize full-color ads 26% more often than black-and-white ads.

  • Heinz changed the color of their signature ketchup from red to green and sold over 10 million bottles in the first 7 months, resulting in $23 million in sales.

  • When marketing new products, it is important to understand that consumers place visual appearance and color above other factors when they shop.

  • 85% of shoppers place color as a primary reason for why they buy a particular product.
  • Color increases brand recognition by 80%. Brand recognition is directly tied to consumer confidence.

  • Colors are not universal in nature. The ones that entice in North America are different from those that entice in India.

  • Color is not the only element that influences user behavior. For online shoppers, design, buzzwords and convenience also affect the need to shop.

colors and conversion rates

There are studies and tests on colors that show the best ones for conversion. For example, Hubspot’s suggested that the red button in web design leads to higher conversion rate and performs better than the green button (the color of “go”). While there are existing studies and tests on color psychology, there is no universal set of colors in terms of conversion. You need to conduct your own UX testing to make sure that the colors you choose matter to your users. 


Conclusion

We could talk about color psychology forever and discuss what colors mean in design. However, color psychology is certainly something that you have to explore yourself when designing for your users. The key takeaway here is, do not generalize results but instead, use these data as considering factors when you make your UX product design. Always conduct user tests for colors on your own product and with your target audience to make sure that you get the best results in terms of better user experience and higher conversions.

Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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