The web is a very blue place, and not metaphorically, either. The Internet’s most heavily trafficked websites are literally coloured with nearly twice as many shades of blues as that of yellows and reds, and three times as much greens. But is the colour blue enriching your website?
Regardless of the strategy behind choosing blue for your website, you’re not alone. Its dominance is so great that, in a recent analysis of the colours used by the ten most popular websites, designer Paul Hebert had to make an entirely separate category for turquoise. And it’s not just the default colouring for hyperlinks, either.
“I often struggle to create colour schemes, and was curious about what other companies are doing,” says Paul.
Paul found a variation of blueish hues among the most widely trafficked websites. This trend sheds light on the way some designers try to please a multitude of individuals who have a variety of different preferences; all leading designers to look to current trends for creative inspiration.
Blue isn’t the be-all, end-all of web design colours, and it doesn’t fit with every brand. Keeping track of current UI/UX trends is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to jump on the bandwagon every time. Therefore, determining whether your design strategy incorporates popular colours—or goes against the grain—are important brand decisions that vary from brand to brand.
Why is blue popular in website design?
The colour is widely used in design because it’s favoured by both men and women of all ages. And it may be the calming effect of the colour that makes it popular to both sexes.
“Blue isn’t only the most popular colour on the web today, it’s also the most popular colour on the spectrum internationally. Long associated with the serenity of a clear blue sky, and the cleansing waters of tranquil seas, the human mind embraces the concept of blue as constant, translating it into a symbolic message of dependability and loyalty,” explains Pantone Color Institute VP Laurie Pressman.
Blue has also long been the go-to colour for hyperlinks. But no one can seem to agree on exactly why, and who made that decision. It’s believed that Mosaic, an early internet browser, apparently decided to make blue the default colour of links, because it was the colour closest to black in its contrast to white; thus making it the next most legible colour choice for web pages.
Another possible reason for its popularity is that it’s also estimated about 10 percent of the population is red-green colourblind. According to a 2010 article in The New Yorker, it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s colour of choice precisely because he himself is colourblind.
Is blue always the best design choice?
The short answer is no. Just because it’s the most popular colour in web design doesn’t mean every brand should switch it. While it’s not a controversial or polarizing colour, blue speaks to safety, professionalism, even security. Unfortunately, because of that, it doesn’t stand out enough. Which is probably why a handful of companies have rebranded in the past couple of years to move away from blue. However, should you choose it for your web design, here are the best shades to use depending on your needs:
Dark blues are often used for websites that want to be seen as powerful and safe. It also symbolizes knowledge, integrity, seriousness, masculinity, and expertise.
Light blue best represents health, healing, tranquillity, understanding, and softness.
Pale blues gives an ethereal sense to the website and often symbolizes delicate, calming, health, healing, tranquillity and understanding.
Royal blue, on the other hand, gives a regal and superior feel to websites that use the colour. It also symbolizes richness and sometimes cool aloofness.
Regardless of your colour choice, it’s important for the design to reflect what’s appropriate for the product or company and how that communicates to the user. Trends come and go, and if what you’re designing needs to be around for a while, it’s probably best to not date it by giving it a look that matches a current trend.
Is blue the right choice for your brand?
If you’re thinking about betting on blue for your website strategy, not so fast. While the popularity of blue online is undeniable, you need to know your audience and how they perceive colour. You also should look at the type of imagery your brand is trying to convey to its audience. Finally, consider the saturation of your colour choice; it plays a crucial role in web design. A saturated colour will stand out more and draw the eye, while a less saturated colour will support other colours in the scheme.
Just remember to test your choices. This will ensure the user experience, the design and colours appeals to a variety of users, but still represents your brand.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.