By Michel Fortin
I was once
asked this question: "In relation to colors on a web site, have you done
any research or found any material on what colors are more pleasing to the
site visitor, or even what colors tend to produce more sales?" I believe
this could be an important area that many of us overlook. Here's my answer.
First, all colors stem from
two basic colors, namely red and blue. (Actually, there are three, i.e., red
green and blue, as in "RGB." But blue and red are at the ends of the
spectrum while green is in the middle.) Blue tones are purple, green,
violet, indigo and of course blue. On the other hand, red tones are pink,
orange, yellow, fuschia, burgundy and so on. Essentially, red and blue are
at opposite ends of the gamma spectrum (e.g., ultraviolet and infrared).
Now, the eye focuses on
blue tones in front of the retina. As a result, blue tones move away from
the eye or sight. Therefore, they are non-threatening and tend to make you
feel drowsy. Blue is a very good color if you wish to communicate
professionalism, stability, relaxation, logic, etc. But red tones are
focused behind the retina. By moving toward the eye, they communicate
aggressiveness, excitement, energy and emotion. Hence the expressions "I've
got the blues" and "seeing the world through rose-colored glasses."
In the 70's, a program
called "The Body Human" struck me in this regard. On one particular show,
scientists conducted tests regarding the psychological impact of colors. The
first involved a weightlifter who was given a set of barbells -- if memory
serves me correctly, they were about 200-250 pounds. While the exercise was
surely not an easy one, the athlete seemed to have no problems in pumping
the weights, even raising the weights over his head.
Then, a large red-colored
card was placed in front of his face, covering his entire field of vision.
But this time, however, he began to pump the weights as if they were
feathers -- without any visible signs of physical strain. Things changed
dramatically, however, when the red-colored card was replaced by a
blue-colored one. Not only was the athlete no longer able to lift the
barbells passed his torso, but you can also tell that the level of physical
exertion had increased quite a bit by merely looking at his face, arms, and
Moments later, researchers
switched back to the red-colored card. And incredibly, things apparently
went back to normal. The lifter began to pump the weights with ease as if
nothing happened -- let alone the fact that the change seemed also
instantaneous. (While other colors were used in the test, the red and blue
cards seemed to have made the greatest impact.)
On the same program, a
red-lit hospital room was filled with cribs and colicky babies were placed
in each one. While newborns naturally cry and particularly colicky ones, the
red light seemed to have intensified their incessant weeping. Then,
researchers turned the lights to a blue color. Amazingly and in almost an
instant, the room went eerily quiet. And similar to the weightlifter test,
when the lights went back to red they all started crying again -- as if on
With all this said, the
answer to your question is: It all depends on what you're selling, on what
you wish to communicate to your visitors, and in what tone or frame-of-mind
in which you wish to place them. It has nothing to do with manipulation or
some sort of subliminal imagery. Your colors are part of your message. And
depending on which message you wish to convey, the colors you choose can
either support, emphasize, or contradict your message.
I work mostly with
professionals (e.g., doctors, dentists, lawyers and the like). Blue tones
are their dominant colors. In the case of surgeons and dentists for example,
pain makes people nervous and blue therefore helps to calm them down. (By
the way, this is the reason why most medical garment colors, beyond the
traditional white, are light blue, dark blue, light green, violet, purple
and so on.) If you are trying to get people excited and communicate an
emotional message (for example, if you sell items related to sports, cars,
games, money, weight-loss, motivation, etc), then reds are a good choice.
In short, remember that
blues tend to signify logic while reds equal emotion. However, keep in mind
that you can use both colors, depending on your goals or theme. An example
is the way villains and heroes are often portrayed in movies (not always but
often). Villains appear in dark reddish colors while heroes are in lighter
bluish tones. Take the example of the latest Star Wars movie. The
antagonist, "Darth Maul," is a devilish-looking character with red and black
makeup while his nemesis, "Yoda," is the greenish "Jedi Master."
For example, my site is
dominantly blue. But a cosmetic surgeon's site I've recently designed is
purple and pink. While pink is a reddish tone, it was used
in this case to excite people about the potential changes in one's
appearance. Self-esteem and beauty are emotions. And cosmetic surgery is
more often than not an emotional choice.
Nevertheless, again it all
depends on what you are trying to communicate. Colors (and their variants)
each have their respective positive properties. It all boils down to the
message and its intended response.