Trust and the Theory Behind Color

Trust is defined* as, "the reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing." In relation to Web design, it involves honesty and competence, and a subtle, yet powerful way to achieve that elusive trust factor is through the use of color.

Color theory is a set of principles used to create harmonious color combinations, or color schemes. When determining which color is right for a website, you are not just choosing one color (e.g. make it blue). Your designer will actually be choosing and applying an entire color scheme to a website. Knowing the types of classic color schemes is essential when influencing an end-product.

Monochromatic color schemes use variations in lightness and saturation of a single color, whereas analogous color schemes use colors that are adjacent to each other on the "color wheel." There are many types of classic color schemes (complimentary and split-complimentary, triadic and tetradic) so let's instead look at the basics of the colors themselves and how they are perceived by end-users.

Red is considered to be an emotionally intense color. While red is commonly associated with danger, it is also used to stimulate people to make quick decisions. Red is highly visible, so using it to bring text and images to the forefront makes it a perfect color for "buy now" or "add-to-cart" buttons.

While not as aggressive as red, orange is also a highly visible color, ideal for calling attention to or highlighting the most important elements of a design, without causing stress.

Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. Use yellow to evoke pleasant, uplifting feelings. You can choose yellow to promote children's products and items related to leisure. Use yellow carefully however, as a dul yellow represents caution.

Green is the color of nature - symbolizing growth, harmony, and fertility. Green has a strong emotional link with safety and is considered to be the most restful color for the human eye. Green suggests stability and endurance, making it a perfect fit for finance-related design, but is also used to indicate safety, making it a viable choice for medical-related design.

Blue, often associated with stability, symbolizes trust, wisdom and confidence. Blue has been shown to produce a calming effect and is often used to promote products and services related to cleanliness. More accepted by males than females, it is a preferred color for corporate America.

Black typically carries a negative connotation but carries with it a feeling of perspective and depth. Strength and authority are also attributed to black. Although black backgrounds diminish readability, combined with other intense colors such as red, they remain aggressive and unique, good for attracting a risk-taking mindset.