Those of us that enjoy the privilege of sight are bombarded with arrays of colour every day and chat with a stranger, Colour warns, excites, inspires and influences our mood. Each year the fashion industry cajoles us into coordinating our wardrobe according to the season. From this the distinct factions of map-makers and map-followers emerge. Brands are born and trends are ignited.
The advertising fraternity has, for years, run countless split-testing of advertisements. Testing colour schemes, among many other variables, in the attempt to find ‘the one’ which resonates with their potential customers. I’ve done this myself, when I was working within the online marketing industry, and found that, strangely, the one you think will be the winner never is.
We also have to remember that there is a significant section of the population who are colour-blind. That is to say, have difficulty in distinguishing the difference between various colour hues. My own father has a problem with blue and green and will often call something green which is plainly blue to me and other people viewing the same object. Ensuring that you do not use these hue combinations in advertisements is vital. If people can’t see it, then they won’t be influenced by it.
If you are not sure if you have a form of colour blindness yourself, you can get a basic check online at www.color-blindness.com. Although for a full diagnosis you should always check with your doctor or optician. You may be surprised. My friend, who was training to be an electrician, ended up as a chartered accountant because of his colour blindness. Who knew?
Contrast is also an important factor to consider. Legibility, especially on mobile devices viewed in fluctuating lighting conditions, is essential.
Some time ago I abandoned a magazine subscription due to their adoption of grey text instead of white within the articles. I found it a strain on my eyes, and certainly wasn’t prepared to pay good money each month for a publication which gave me a headache! Of course, the compositor who created the article on a 26-inch monitor probably thought it looked cool. But it looked so very different once on the printed page. The web is no different, so pay close attention to any theme you choose. How easy is it for you to change the colours and font size? If the answer is “not very”, move on to another.
Mix and Match
When it comes to colour schemes, my opinion is worth squat. I usually cheat and refer to paint-manufacturers brochures, or online suggestions when decorating my home. After all, they are the professionals, and their coordination talents end up making my look good. So I transfer this theory to the web.
Luckily, there are many helpful online tools to help us get the most out of our web efforts, without having to resort to paying a design professional.
Adobe have their excellent colour wheel for creating professional-quality colour schemes at color.adobe.com. You can click and drag the colour indicators around the hue rings and the remaining markers magically select the remaining colour options for you. Very nice. Similar colour scheme creators are available at