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Psychology of Color in the Digital World

We’ve all heard it: our attention spans are short. According to a study by Microsoft, the average human attention span is 8 seconds, a full second less than goldfish, which average out at 9! And that’s not all, according to a study done by Marketing Insider Group, people make conclusions about products subconsciously within 90 seconds. For almost 90%, this estimation is based on the color only. Because color is psychologically linked with our perception, they generate more instinctual, split-second reactions than most other elements.

Thus, it’s no surprise that one of the most important elements in branding is color–when to use it, how to use it, to optimize its effects. Our reactions to color are dependent on culture, environment, and even personal preferences, and while there are some overlying themes, no color combination is the perfect mix for everyone. Our guide serves primarily as just that–a guide, that urges you to consider and make practical color decisions. We hope you have fun testing 

  1. Try blue to cultivate trust

Blue is one of the most prevalent colors in the marketing and advertising world. It’s seen as a color of peace, order and has even been shown to reduce blood pressure as well as improve creativity. According to Joe Hallock’s Colour Assignments, blue is the most non-gender specific color, making it a great choice for all targeted audiences. It also creates a sense of loyalty and trust. Check out how Nintendo uses the color on their page.

  1. Contrast, contrast, contrast: your button color needs to POP!

There’s been a lot of research on the best button color, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer. The Isolation Effect, originally known as the Von Restorff effect, tells us something that stands out on a page is more likely to be remembered. 

Increase the contrast between your CTA button’s color and the colors on the rest of the page. This matters whether it’s in a form, a popup, a banner or on a sales page. That contrast can be generated by a difference in warm and cool tones as well as color palettes to maximize a consumer’s desire to interact with your buttons. A study by DMix of 600 participants revealed that when a red button was used against a webpage with accents of green everywhere else, conversion rates increased by 34 percent.

  1. Limit red

Red evokes the strongest emotions of all the colors. Our eyes are drawn first to red because of its intensity, and thus the color creates movement, excitement, and action. Having such an immediate reaction to a color means that that reaction is often irrational; in fact, red can even reduce rational thought when it triggers our emotions. Our Advice — use red in moderation. Too much of it can appear aggressive and hostile.

  1. Avoid yellow

Long a color of controversy among consumers, because the human eye processes yellow automatically, this is usually used as a warning color or to generate a visceral reaction. It’s also often cited as making people angry! That might sound surprising, but it’s not all sunshine with yellow. Just like the color implies, use yellow with caution.

  1. Adjust vibrancy

Vibrant colors generate a sense of energy and urgency among users, and thus tend to evoke stronger emotions. Neutral or darker colors help with comprehension and retention of text heavy pages that may require more mental processing to understand.

  1. Green to balance and soothe

Because it requires no adjustment when it hits the retina, green is the most calming shade to the human eye.  Beyond being associated with nature and health, green is also used to depict wealth. Reassuring and pleasing to the senses, we like to think of green as the color of a state of zen. It’s color of balance, right in the middle of the color wheel.

  1. Test!

A/B test everything! No one client persona is like another, and people differ even within the personas themselves when it comes to color. It’s important to test the results of any changes you make, maintaining a control group so you can accurately measure key performance indicators. Tests allow you to closely monitor and evaluate the effects of both minor nuances and large-scale modifications on your audience. While Monetate found that an orange button performed worse than a blue one by 9 percent, Hubspot found that a red button outperformed a green one by 21 percent. However, all of these results should be interpreted with a grain of salt, as they are all contingent on the color of the rest of the landing page and the product being sold. What works for others might not work for you. 

Remember, color is not the end all be all, your brand is. Studies have shown that brand cohesiveness is a far more important factor than the inherent color. Evaluate the message you want to convey to your consumers and align your choice of colors.

Author: Steph, Digital Marketing Lead at POWr. Founded in 2014, POWr has become the web’s leading plugin library and has helped over 8 million small businesses grow online. It’s a complete suite of 60 user-friendly website plugins (also known as apps or widgets) designed to give SMBs the strength of a full web engineering team in one handy toolkit. There’s no code, a simple editing interface and all plugins can be installed on any website in a few simple clicks! For more information, visit



Alexandru is the co-owner of TopDesignMag. “If it looks easy, it's hard. If it looks hard, it's impossible. If it looks impossible, it's due tomorrow. At 8 A.M.”