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Color is often overlooked in the business of optimizing websites for better returns on investments. Website sales can be greatly affected by simply changing its colors.  Ever come across a website that uses some funky combination of print and background colors? If you ever want to experience an eye-twisting headache, try reading yellow print on a blue background. The reason you see black type on a white background so much is that it is the best color combination for reading, both on and offline.

And since it is even harder to read text on a monitor than it is on paper, we must all be especially careful with the colors we choose for our websites, or suffer less-than-optimal site traffic and repeat visitors.

Color choice should also be dictated by other, less obvious goals, when designing or re-vamping a website. It's important to realize that different colors invoke different emotions, are associated with specific concepts and say different things in each society. For instance, green often times is associated with freshness or money, which is fairly obvious if you think about it. But every color does this, and some of the emotions and concepts are more subtle. For example, white means pure, easy, or goodness and purple can be associated with royalty or sophistication. What’s more, each color carries with it both positive and negative ideas. The emotions and concepts that you associate with specific colors may differ from other people's associations, but there are themes that run throughout each color. Here are some:

Positive: Sense of power, strength, action, passion, sexuality
Negative: Anger, forcefulness, impulsiveness, impatience, intimidation, conquest, violence and revenge

Positive: Caution, brightness, intelligence, joy, organization, Spring time
Negative: Criticism, laziness, or cynicism

Positive: Tranquility, love, acceptance, patience, understanding, cooperation, comfort, loyalty and security
Negative: Fear, coldness, passivity and depression

Positive: Steadfastness, courage, confidence, friendliness, and cheerfulness, warmth, excitement and energy
Ignorance: Ignorance, inferiority, sluggishness and superiority

Positive: Royalty, sophistication, religion
Negative: Bruised or foreboding

Positive: Money, health, food, nature, hope, growth, freshness, soothing, sharing, and responsiveness
Negative: Envy, greed, constriction, guilt, jealousy and disorder

Positive: Dramatic, classy, committed, serious
Negative: Evil, death, ignorance, coldness

Positive: Pure, fresh, easy, cleanliness or goodness
Negative: Blind, winter, cold, distant

A major goal of marketers is to invoke emotion in their audience. We know that if we can cause some kind of an emotional reaction in the people we are marketing to and communicating with, we have a better chance of compelling them to buy from us. The battle between logic and emotion that rages in each of is usually won by emotion most of the time. By choosing the colors of our websites and online media with deliberate care, we are purposefully trying to invoke a specific emotional response that will increase sales. So pick your colors carefully.

Not only do colors evoke emotions, but they can communicate messages or concepts too. For example, look at http://www.clickitticket.com to see how color is used to communicate the new affiliation between Oak Web Works, LLC and ClickitTicket.com. The blues of Oak Web Works’s logo swirl into the reds of ClickitTicket.com’s logo. This can be interpreted as a melding of the two organizations, which is what the words underneath say, “in affiliation with”. Also, the red of http://www.oakwebworks.com/tickets/  indicates action and passion, two essentials for people who want to attend theater, sporting events or concerts.

Another online ticket website, http://www.bestshowticketslasvegas.com/, has a different color approach. Its main colors are blue and purple, giving the site a comforting, secure and sophisticated feel. The main header on each page has all the colors in the rainbow in it, a collage of images, with the word ‘Tickets’ in large, white font. Much of the site is white too, which gives it a clean feel.

As a general rule of thumb, when Oak Web Works (http://www.oakwebworks.com) designs websites, one primary color and one secondary or complimentary color will be chosen. These colors are based on the specific audience and market of our client and the messages the client wants to communicate to the rest of the world. If more than two or three colors are used, things tend to look a little messy, and the power of any one color is diluted too much, so we most often stick with two colors.

When I am not sure exactly which colors or combinations to use, I often start trying different things, then take a step back and ask myself what my chosen colors are conveying to me. After designing many websites over the years I have realized that going with my gut has often worked when I’m in doubt. You would be surprised at how creative and accurate your intuition can be.

However, if the client already has an established brand, we will always make sure to match the colors of the website with the original colors of the company. It is not wise to have print collateral material one color and the website a totally unrelated color. All marketing channels need to remain consistent, with one face only.

Since website visitors all have different platforms, different monitors, and different settings for their screen resolutions, the colors you choose for your website may not always be rendered the exact same way on your site visitors' monitors. That's why there are "Web Safe" colors that have a much higher likelihood of looking the exact same regardless of the user's computer, monitor or settings. Many graphics programs, including Adobe Photoshop, have a feature that allows you to choose “Web Safe” colors only.

Keep in mind however, that the sophistication of technology today allows for Web designers to be able to stray from the "Web Safe" colors more and more. So don't be overly concerned if you choose to use “un-safe’ Web colors, chances are that most of your audience has the computers necessary to view your site the exact way you intended.

Whether you are designing sites for clients or designing your own business website, your color choice is vital. Be sure to try different colors, different shades, and different combinations before you decide. It’s a lot of fun playing with colors but every choice you make comes with a set of pre-defined societal meanings and emotions, so choose with deliberate care.

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