Does the Color of My Website Have a Big Impact on Visitors?

by Alan Prachar on  April 11, 2011 |

Article by Denise Rutledge Originally Posted here.

Research says yes. Color plays a major role in how your website impacts visitors. A study conducted by Richard H. Hall and Patrick Hanna in 2004 evaluated text versus background color combinations for four factors: 1) Readability, 2) retention, 3) aesthetics, and 4) behavioral intention. The results of their research are informative.

Impact of Color on Readability

Before this study, it was just generally understood that black against a white background was the best choice, followed by white against a black background. This lore was based on the monitors available before the advent of the web. Color in those days wasn’t even an option.

Research does confirm that contrast is an important factor in readability. The contrast between the colors chosen is important. Yellow and blue work very well together. Red and purple do not. The contrast is just too little. Another factor that enhances contrast is the brightness of the color.

Interestingly, despite the fact that most websites use white as the default text background, studies have shown that light gray backgrounds enhance readability against black text.

Role of Color in Website Aesthetics

The study of color’s effects on human emotions predates the advent of the internet. Depending on the effect you want your website to have, you should consider how colors that have shorter wavelengths (blues and greens) versus colors with longer wavelengths (reds and yellows) impact potential customers. Colors in the shorter wavelengths elicit lower levels of arousal than those with longer wavelengths.

This arousal can be positive or negative. For some, red creates anxiety; while for others it reads as vigorous and bold. Yellow suggests weakness to some individuals; while for others it’s seen as bright and cheerful.

This may explain that in a number of scientific studies, the colors of blue and green tend to be preferred by participants, especially when these colors form the background color with a light color forming the text. The shorter wavelengths don’t elicit a strong response. They tend to be neutral.

Visitor Retention and Color

Retention has two aspects. The ability to remember information and keeping visitors on a website.

Hall and Hanna found that readability factors do have some impact on whether customers remember your message. It doesn’t hurt to make sure it’s easy to read your website page by using a color combination that doesn’t make reading difficult.

Readability and aesthetics are more likely to impact visitor retention. If it’s hard to read the message and the response to your website color scheme is negative, you probably won’t keep that visitor on your website.

Color and Customer Behavior

Using color to enhance behavioral intention is a proven strategy. It is very subtle, but it helps to lead customers to making a favorable decision. A website that is easy to read, is pleasing from an aesthetic angle and keeps customers on the site is more likely, if other factors on the website (such as web content) are conducive, to lead to the sale.


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