Why Color matters in UX

Understanding color psychology is a key aspect of creating a color palette that works well in digital design. While color is sometimes thought of as a purely aesthetic choice by some designers, it is, in fact, a key component of the psychological impact of a design on users, and as such, its UX.

A well-thought-out out color palette can elevate a design from “good” to “great” while a mediocre or bad color palette can detract from a user’s overall experience and even interfere with their ability to use a site or app.

The Psychology of Color

There is a branch of psychology showing the influence of colors on human mood and behavior called color psychology. It states that our mind reacts on colors while we usually do not notice them. When human eyes perceive color, our brain gives signals to the endocrine system releasing hormones responsible for mood and emotions.

Each color has its own influence on our mind and the knowledge of the possible reactions can help designers to transfer the right message and call users to make the expected action. Here is a shortlist of color meanings.

Red. It symbolizes both good and bad feelings including love, confidence, passion, and anger. It’s a very strong color and can elicit strong reactions in people. Lightening it to pink makes it more feminine and romantic while darkening the hue to maroon makes it more subdued and traditional.

Orange. An energetic and warm color bringing feelings of excitement and adventure. It’s very energetic, too. Because of orange’s strong ties to the 70s style, it can also evoke a retro feeling.

Yellow. This is the color of happiness, the sunlight, joy, and warmth. It’s popular in designs for children and adults alike. More pastel hues are often used as a gender-neutral baby color, while brighter yellows are popular in creative designs. Darker shades of yellow become gold, which is associated with wealth and success.

Green. Green has varied associations. On one hand, it provokes feelings of wealth and tradition (particularly darker hues), while on the other it’s strongly associated with environmentalism and nature. Lime greens are often associated with renewal and growth.

Blue. Blue is most often associated with loyalty and trust. Brighter blues can be affiliated with communication, while duller and darker blues can be associated with sadness and depression. Blue is the most universally liked color in the world, which may explain why so many companies opt for blue shades for their branding.

Purple. Long associated with royalty and wealth. It’s also a color of mystery and magic.

Black. Black implies sophistication and luxury. It can also be tied to sorrow and negativity, however. Depending on the other UX colors being used alongside black, it can feel modern or traditional, formal or casual.

White. The color means purity and innocence, as well as wholeness and clarity.

In addition, designers need to remember that visual perception is quite individual for everyone. Such factors as age and gender have a great impact on color preferences, so it’s vital to know the target audience well before selecting a color palette for your design.

I’m David, a product designer based in NYC. I specialize in UX design and building digital experiences.