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Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2007 at 8:43 am

Web Design Colors — Do Men and Women Respond Differently?

By Holly Buchanan
July 24th, 2007

Blue team...How do you determine the color scheme for your website? Do you use proven color theory? Do you try to match the colors in your logo? Do you choose colors you like?

If you’re trying to appeal to women, should you use different colors than if you are trying to appeal to men?

First, I have to go on this very short rant. If you’re targeting women, please do not automatically default to pink. Don’t do it. Yes, some women love pink. Others hate it. Pink has very strong connotations for women. Instead of saying “just make it pink,” do some research and choose colors that reflect who you really are as a company and/or brand.

Which brings me to some interesting research showing that women and men have different favorite colors. According to the study, 57% of men chose blue as their favorite color, while only 35% of women chose blue as their favorite color.

Why’s this important? A lot of web designers default to blue. If you’re a company with a “steady, trustworthy, credible” mantra, blue’s your color. I have no problem with that. But I can’t help but wonder; does the color blue mean different things to different genders? Is the fact that 57% of men choose blue as their favorite color biasing male web designers toward the color blue?

Now, before you get huffy, good web designers know their color palate and choose colors based not on what they like but what’s appropriate for their client’s business. Are women having the same reactions to those color schemes as men?

What do you think? If you’re designing a site for women, which colors do you use?

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Comments (24)

  1. I would definitely change the color palette for a site targeting women vs. a site targeting men. It is a physiological fact that women see more colors than men, so gradations and tints and shades are more important to women. Most men don’t talk about teal, peach, peacock or garnet (etc.) as colors – those are things. Most women would probably ask if you meant a blue or green teal…

    I would tend to use one or two different blocks of strong, solid color or one or two gradations of a single color to white, for a site for men. For women, a broader palette of gradations, shades or tints would work. The theme of the site would determine the colors, as colors definitely reflect moods and messages – see http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/colorselection/p/index.htm for more information.

  2. so, what are some good color combinations if your site sells to both men and women? main color? along with a secondary color?

    thanks………….

  3. Great post Holly. Just having this discussion in my office.

    Larry

  4. I’ve had a successful women’s clothing business on Ebay for over seven years. Ebay recently encouraged me to create an “off-Ebay” site to capture a wider audience. I wanted to reflect some synergy with elite brands but have my own distinctiveness as well. My real name is sunshine and my business is http://www.sunshinestyles.com so, naturally, I leaned towards using gradients and a yellow/gold and beige color pallete. I can’t tell from joel hallock’s color analysis if my choices are desirable or not. Since my off-Ebay site just launched last week, I’d like to know if my choices are helpful or harmful in giving my customers a great user experience. Any thoughts?

  5. Rick – first and foremost – choose colors that convey the experience, emotions that reflect your brand. there are lots of good color theory resources to help you do that. Lezlie has some suggestions above you could consider.

    But I’d also recommend getting reaction from both men and women and see if it is different. Just be careful, most people don’t have the vocabulary to have an objective conversation about color.

  6. Sunshine – I’d give you the same advice – look up what yellow, gold and beige represent. But just from a gut feel, I think it works. Good luck with your new site.

  7. Holly,

    I know we discuss this issue often, at Future Now, but I’d love to see a post where you explain this better: “Just be careful, most people don’t have the vocabulary to have an objective conversation about color.” It shouldn’t be just about color.

  8. [...] I am not a fan of pink. I'm especially not a fan of slapping pink on a product and saying it's "made for [...]

  9. Before redesigning this site I sent an survey to the customer list to find out more about them.

    Determining that the customer base is 80% female and between 35 and 59 years old helped us redesign a site that was VERY masculine before we did the redesign.

    Check out our work at: http://www.healthdirectusa.com/

    Since I am a male designer it may still have hints of masculinity but I think that it’s OK because I didn’t want to alienate the 20% of loyal male customers by putting flowers and “pink” all over the place. :-)

  10. I’ve had a successful women’s clothing business on Ebay for over seven years. Ebay recently encouraged me to create an “off-Ebay” site to capture a wider audience. I wanted to reflect some synergy with elite brands but have my own distinctiveness as well. My real name is sunshine and my business is http://www.sunshinestylesonline.com so, naturally, I leaned towards using gradients and a yellow/gold and beige color pallete. Since my off-Ebay site launched last September, my revenue has increased 26% and my customers have commented on how much the site’s colors appeal to them.

  11. Sunsihine,

    I like the look and feel of your site – great job!

    Holly

  12. I believe that women and men have different favorite colors.The web design should take this into consideration.

  13. I am fixing to build a new site on a new domain. I would like to have a site beside blue, any good suggestions on good color combinations?

  14. [...] for the value that gets > 50%. So if I somehow knew the gender mix on my site I could change the color scheme? Sounds like a decent optimization idea, [...]

  15. [...] for the value that gets > 50%. So if I somehow knew the gender mix on my site I could change the color scheme? Sounds like a decent optimization idea, [...]

  16. [...] for the value that gets > 50%. So if I somehow knew the gender mix on my site I could change the color scheme? Sounds like a decent optimization idea, [...]

  17. [...] for the value that gets > 50%. So if I somehow knew the gender mix on my site I could change the color scheme? Sounds like a decent optimization idea, [...]

  18. Since my comment above (2 years ago) I’ve done some more research/testing on marketing to women.

    You can see the results on my blog post: State of the American Mom.

    Let me know what you think! ;-)

  19. Very interesting blog, I always wonder why certain pictures are used in Facebook ads, many of them are so hideous, but I guess they work because they keep popping up!

  20. I think I will choose some bright colors, because that is what women prefer nowadays…not pink anyway

  21. Women and men respond different, which is why if you aren’t sure it is best to use neutral colors.

  22. pink still converts really well though

  23. The color of the website has a big impact on how its visitors will interact with it. The color is also determine on the target viewers of a website. For example, a website selling women things. Mostly, the color of the design would be pink or any feminine color.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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