How do color and typefaces affect your website rankings? The short answer is emotion. People respond to color and design with feelings. If they resonate to the colors on your site, the fonts that tell your story, and the way elements are arranged on the screen, they are likely to linger a little longer. They may not know exactly what attracts them, but they know they are intrigued. So, they don’t rush off.
Marketing expert Steve Smart of 2Q Solutions wanted to know exactly how these components affect web surfers’ behavior and, in turn, his website rankings. He asked me some specific questions, and I thought you might be interested in our conversation.
Q: Many websites are built with colors based on the personal preference of the site owner. What are the upsides and downsides of choosing logo and Web colors on that basis?
A: There are advantages and disadvantages.
• An upside to choosing website colors and typefaces is an opportunity to start fresh or enhance an identity and establish a palette of colors with complementary typefaces.
• If the customer asks, “Can we use the CEO’s favorite color,” this can be a difficult situation, especially if it is the first time you are working with this client.
• The biggest mistake people make is selecting colors for their websites that are based on their own personal preferences, rather than on their identity and brand.
Colors and fonts are an extension of your brand and identity. Examples: Coke, red; Starbucks, green; UPS, brown; St. Louis Cardinals, red. It’s hard to know how some of these colors were chosen, though in most cases, they probably originated with a concept. Example: Panera’s concept is healthy eating, which is reflected in the earth tones of its color palette.
Q: I believe colors and fonts have the power to leave an intended impression AND that they can facilitate a more favorable response. What can you tell me about that?
A: I agree. Colors and fonts can have a big impact on the website visitor. Web designers are well versed in the effects certain colors produce and apply that knowledge to clients’ sites.
• The goal of your website is to communicate your value to your audience with content, colors, images, and other media.
• Your website should use the color palette of your business identity and brand.
• If the colors are pleasing and easy on the eyes, your visitor will be drawn into the content.
• Make your website comfortable to read and appealing. A positive experience for visitors will make them spend more time on your site.
• Study your competitors’ colors and typefaces. Determine if you want to imitate them or differentiate yourself from your competition. An example of imitation: One of our clients had a photo-processing mail-order business. He wanted his envelopes to be yellow, black and red, so people would identify his company with Kodak and Kodak quality.
Q: Is it true that different colors leave different impressions with people? What are some examples?
A: Colors evoke emotional and physical reactions:
• Bold, bright colors (fun and excitement) elicit different emotional responses than pastel and muted colors (calm and soft).
• Some colors are thought of as either feminine or masculine. Did you know that pink for girls and blue for boys was a result of manufacturers’ and retailers’ decisions in the 1940s?
• Colors can affect our reactions, emotions, and even our appetite: Think green (healthy) versus blue (unappetizing).
• Remember the green Heinz ketchup novelty? People preferred red.
• Celebrity “green rooms” are painted green because the color calms and relaxes.
• Don’t ignore age differences: Seniors have a hard time reading pastel colors, especially online.
• When I visit a site that has a black background and reverse white text in a small point size, my impression is negative It’s too hard to read and not worth the eyestrain. As I was doing research for this article, I came across one website with a black background and very small pink type! Adios! That site probably has a very high bounce rate.
Q: What about fonts? Does the same hold true of typefaces?
A: Yes. Typefaces and point sizes have an impact on a visitor’s impression.
• Typeface styles evoke emotion. Example: grunge (rough, worn-out) fonts vs. script (flowing, fancy) fonts create opposing impressions. There’s a huge difference between those styles.
• Many fancy script fonts are unreadable. Although a typestyle may be sophisticated, ask yourself if it is easy to read.
• Typefaces must be readable to deliver a message. Example: Craigslist. Not pretty! The site is function first, a “get-in, get-out experience.”
• Avoid tiny fonts and small point sizes. Be sure that readers are able to read your content. If they have trouble, they will most likely move on.
• Unfortunately, many people make inappropriate color and typeface choices. It may sound self-serving, but this is why it is so important to hire a designer who works well with typefaces and styles.
Q: Have there been studies done on this subject?
A: Yes. There are thousands of studies. You can spend a lifetime researching color theory and psychology. Google “color theory studies,” and you’ll get about 18,000,000 results.
Q: How do we know that color isn’t just a matter of personal preference?
A: Corporations and marketing departments spend billions, especially on product color and development.
Q: Are reactions to colors and fonts universal?
A: No. But brand recognition is universal. Think Coke or Apple.
Q: What role does culture play?
A: Cultures and countries interpret colors differently.
• If you have a specific international audience in mind, I recommend that you research “what colors mean in different cultures” or “color meaning around the world.”
• Your visitor demographics can make a difference in how colors are perceived. The interpretation of color depends on gender, age, profession, nationality, and personal preference.
Q: When someone starts a web project, how do you guide people to a point where they’re using fonts and colors that will put them in the best light?
A: Start with your logo and build a color scheme.
Focus on the brand. Colors and fonts are an extension of your identity.
• Use appropriate colors, typefaces, and point sizes that will complement the content, the message, and the branding.
• Are there any colors that distinguish your product or service?
• Research your competition’s identity.
• Consistency: Use the same colors and typefaces throughout your site.
• Hire a graphic designer.
Don’t underestimate the power of color, fonts, and design to keep website visitors around longer and bring them back again and again. Make sure their first impressions are positive, lasting impressions. You may know your subject, your product, or your service; and you may be able to tell you story convincingly. But if the elements of Web design mystify you, call in an expert. When your rankings rise, you’ll be glad you did.
Are you ready to discuss your brand, color, and typeface for your next branding project?