Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability, SEO, relationship marketing and consumer psychology.


Choosing the Right Color Palette 

Every now and again, I blush to admit, I come across an idea so splendidly brilliant in its application of common sense that I wish I'd thought of it. Except in this case, I learned of the idea through a dude named Joe Gillespie.1

Just as words speak volumes, so do colors. They communicate meaning; they trigger emotional associations and evocative memories; they persuade and discourage. You folks actually have different physiologic responses to different colors! And 46% of you determine how credible a site is based on the overall appeal of the visual design.2

It makes sense, then, that when you shape the impact of your online message, you want to give some serious thought to the color palette you choose. And you want to introduce the issue of color at the right time in the development process.

So here are some Grok color suggestions and a totally cool idea I wish I could claim as my own!

When the folks here at Future Now work through the storyboard stage in the development of a Web site's persuasive architecture, they begin by ignoring color. Everything is rendered in grayscale.

The emotive power of color can often confuse persuasive design issues of shape, size, placement and importance. So save the color-question for later. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, if you create a strong design in black and white, you've got a design that will come alive with the careful application of color. Nail the layout, then turn to the emotionally charged issue of color (this'll probably save you a few design confrontations along the way, and may even spare you having to scrap a good layout cursed with the wrong colors!).

So when you're ready to start picking the colors, how do you go about it? How do you put together a scheme that's harmonious, pleasing, offers you the opportunity to provide visual contrast and communicates something of the character of your business?

Lots of folks turn to the color wheel, and pick colors based on two-, three- and even four-color schemes. Oddly, Renoir did not do it this way. Neither did Constable, Turner nor any other of the great masters. They got their inspiration much the same way Joe Gillespie suggests you get yours:

"Unless you spend many hours mixing paints and trying out their various effects and nuances, speaking with colours can be like talking in a foreign language. Yet, walk in a garden and look around you. Nature doesn't make mistakes with colour. No matter how vivid or subtle, they always seem to work together ... if you take the colour juxtapositions and their proportions from nature, you won't go far wrong."

Assemble a collection of nature pictures with subject matter or colors that you feel represent you and what you do. When you've selected an image with a color range that feels most appropriate, scan it into your computer, then, using the eye-dropper tool in your image program, pick out your palette by going for the most prominent colors.

You don't want dozens of colors, just a dominant one with variations in shade and a few contrasting colors. Joe shows some examples of this .

"Any palette produced like this can't help but be harmonious. It can be as bright or as subtle as the subject requires but will virtually guarantee a successful colour scheme. For best results, try to keep close to the original relative proportions of colours too."

You may not wind up with a "Mona Lisa," but you'll certainly create a masterpiece that enhances your persuasive architecture.

1 Web Page Design for Designers
2 Stanford Web Credibility Research


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GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledges-serif" and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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