Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Web Design: the colour scheme


One of the first things we should think of when planning a new web site or application is the colour scheme. We usually create a layout (and I do it with pencil and paper), we can think about the menu and the position of important information, we try to use the work space in a smart way and generally we focus on the overall user interface. next step should be the evaluation of the colours we will use. We can start it all by deciding the basic colour and after that by creating the colour scheme. It is an old story and it started when our computer monitors were smaller and our graphic cards were less powerful. At that time we could rely only on 256 colours (remember?); now it is a completely different story.
Choosing the right colour scheme is one of the things that annoys me more. It makes me suddenly lazy, but I know it is very important. If you have a graphic designer or someone who knows exactly what the colour scheme should be, then you're lucky and you can rely (or be forced somehow) on that helping hand. But if you need to think about all alone, then some kind of tool might become handy.

The tools
When I have to do all the dirty work alone (and I can't blame someone else for the color scheme choice), I usually look for help and I use two web site with online colour schemer. First of all, I decide which colour will be the basic for all the web site. Then, I start a normally very long session and end up with at least three alternative colour palette.
The first site I visit is ColorSchemer which offer a good online tool and a paid desktop app. The second option - and probably the most complete - is Color Scheme Designer that has a very wide set of tools to determine the right colour scheme.

Some advices
In my experience there's no perfect colour scheme. Every visitor will have a different perception and different feedback from the colours used in our web site. But colours play an important role in the overall effect. The feeling we get from the colour of everything we see is quite deep. Presented with a dish of purple spaghetti, we would probably reject it - at least as a first reaction. The same happens when visiting a web site. The right colour blend is a good welcome to our web site. It impacts on the readability and usability of tools, menus, text and images. It can influence the visitor and even make him/her stay or fly away. Think about it.
As a last note, we should remember the role played by a colour in terms of overall effect. It is quite easy to understand that normally black is related to performance and style (sometimes even with something fast and even aggressive, like sport cars). A white or yellow colour scheme is perceived like something bright. Pastel colours are relaxing; sparkling ones more aggressive. And so on.

Hope you leave a thought in the comment section below.

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