Why Colour Schemes Matter in Design Psychology
Beyond the software development industry, I have always heard that “tech-nerds” are only about coding and maintaining application performance.
If we “tech-nerds” only care about performance and functionality, then how do we manage to create some of the best application designs across the internet?
While it is undoubtedly true that being a developer, our instincts have always leaned towards developing a flawless functional app, but it does not simply end there.
Our responsibility is to ensure that clients and users get the best user experience through their application, and colours play a crucial role in it.
Colours have always been a fundamental component in the art that brings any inanimate design to life, including a mobile application.
To grasp the significance of colour in designing mobile applications, let us first understand why it is crucial for developers and its impact on an audience.
The article would also elucidate some common ways and tips developers can follow in choosing the right colour for their dream projects.
Why Colour Psychology Matters?
When it comes to the marketing and branding of an application, the ultimate factor for success is usually determined by customer satisfaction, retention, and positive reviews.
The idea is to grasp the user’s attention and enhance their experience while browsing through the app.
Even though the functionality of an application would determine its retention, the first impression has to be a positive one to motivate the user to download and use the app further.
To make the first impression as the last impression, colour psychology plays a huge role.
Colour psychology defines the human perception of colour and how it influences their behaviour or emotions towards a particular product.
For instance, general perception has always maintained that red signifies fire, passion, excitement, while blue projects depth, calmness, or sadness.
When these particular colours are matched to the theme of the mobile application, users can instantly pick up its essence and relate to the application.
Let’s take an example to understand how colour psychology affects users’ behaviour.
Cobalt Blue [#246EE9] has become one of the most influential colours for social media platforms and applications in use today.
If we were to look at the list of the applications on our mobile right now, we would notice apps like Facebook, Twitter, Google Messages, Telegram, Hike, LinkedIn, all using a similar colour.
We have subconsciously started associating blue with social networking platforms and indirectly trust those apps with the same colour theme.
Experimenting with Colour Schemes
If we were to get to the basics of understanding colour schemes, then the colour circle is one of the bare references for understanding colour combinations.
A colour wheel can be considered a referential guide that provides information about different hues and the relationship between primary, secondary, and tertiary colours.
By considering that, application designers have specific colour schemes and palettes that determine the entire app’s colour pattern and theme.
Below are some of the typical colour schemes used while designing mobile apps.
As the name suggests, the monochromatic colour scheme might come across as one of the most simple colour schemes for mobile applications.
But when it comes to implementation, it might not be as easy as it sounds.
The colour scheme focuses on a single colour and the different shades or tones of that hue.
For instance, a designer can choose red as the primary colour for the application while using its darker or lighter shades to emphasise other elements.
When two or three different colours, located beside one another, are chosen from the colour wheel, that combination is known as the analogous colour scheme.
Amongst the selected colour, one becomes the primary colour while the remaining two accentuate it by overlapping or blending with the primary hue.
This scheme is mainly used for banner images or backgrounds in mobile apps.
If you think that colour schemes are only made to complement, blend, or accentuate a single primary colour, then this scheme would prove you wrong.
Two opposite colours with contrasting solid values are chosen from the colour wheel within a complementary colour scheme.
The scheme makes image differentiation easy and allows designers to bring users’ attention to different yet unavoidable elements within a single image or page.
But while this scheme brings out the best within the image, cramming up two colours might ruin the app interface’s colour balance.
The use of two contrasting colours in the previous scheme sounds complex enough, but what if I told you that you could use three contrasting colours as well?
The triadic colour scheme chooses three colours from the colour wheel that are equally distant from each other.
It is similar to making a perfect triangle over a circle and choosing the colours from each intersecting point. Each of these colours is vivid, and they can make your mobile interface stand out from the crowd.
This would be perfect if we were to create a colour scheme by incorporating the previous three schemes.
Similar to the analogous scheme, two adjacent colours are chosen to complement one another, and a third chosen colour is the opposite of the two analogous colours.
The pattern is similar to a triangle, except for the fact that they are not equidistant. Here, one colour is chosen as the primary hue, and the remaining two colours accentuate or complement the primary colour.
9 Tips to Choose the Best Colour for your Application UI
Now that we know the importance of colour psychology and various colour schemes that can be applied, we need to understand how to implement it in the best way possible.
Below is a list of some well-proved tips that can help you choose the suitable colour scheme or theme for your mobile application user interface.
Identify target audience and their perception towards a colour
The response you get towards your application would always depend on the target audiences’ appeal and their perception of the user interface.
The general perceptions towards a particular colour vary depending on their age, gender, product, cultural references, or even personal biases.
The best way to engage with the target audiences’ emotions is to ensure that the colour theme you use catches their preferences.
For example, an application targeting the younger demographic can make the app attractive by using bright, vibrant, and vivid colour patterns.
On the other hand, the older demographic would always prefer toned, pastel, or muted colours to their preference.
Play with contrast
Contrasting colours in the user interface play a massive role in grabbing users’ attention towards a specific function, text, and even the call to action.
However, do not limit yourself by simply incorporating contrasting colours in the interface since too much contrast can ruin the colour balance and take the audience aback.
Instead of filling the UI mindlessly with incessant contrasting hues, our goal must ensure that the colours offer functionality and direct user actions.
For instance, most eCommerce apps highlight their “Buy” and “Cart” functions with contrasting colours to make them attractive and push users to take action.
Create a hierarchy of order in the UI
No matter what colour schemes, palette, or themes we come up with, we must never forget the user interface fundamentals that dictate user actions.
The visual hierarchy must correspond with the app structure and navigation patterns to facilitate browsing and improve the user experience.
For instance, you must highlight similar functions with the same hue to maintain uniformity, while you can highlight unique functions with contrasting colours.
The same concept goes for interactive and non-interactive elements as well.
Pay attention to the colour ratio
One of the golden colour ratios that are often used for designing purposes is the 6:3:1 ratio.
The idea is to incorporate the primary colour to its fullest within 60% of the design, while the secondary colour takes up 30% of the space.
The remaining 10% is for creating a colour combination that accentuates the primary and secondary colours.
The ratio allows compositional balance within the user interface and brings out the visual harmony of colours.
Go head-on against your competitors
While it is not necessarily essential to follow a similar design pattern as the competitors, we must have all the information about their unique position in the market.
Adopting a similar theme as your successful competitor might give you an edge in gaining trust amongst the users.
You can also make up for their gap by carefully observing the loopholes in their designs and reinterpret them to your advantage.
The ultimate goal is to provide a user interface that can give a better user experience than the existing apps in the market.
Prepare an interface inventory
Designers often find themselves in a bewildering position while selecting a theme or palette for their mobile applications.
With thousands of colours to play around with, it would be no surprise to find an interface filled with a diverging range of overused colours with thousands of colours to play around with.
The idea here is not to limit creative imagination but to limit the palette to maintain uniformity and balance.
Preparing an interface inventory allows designers to grasp their limitations beforehand and think of a way to blend the existing colours uniquely and harmoniously.
An essential aspect of an interface inventory is its colour selection that closely represents the brand logo design.
For example, if the brand logo is red, its application would utilise hues of red to create a resembling connection with the company to improve brand recognition.
Furthermore, you can use tools like HueSnap, Coolors, Khroma, and Adobe Color CC to select or prepare the colour palette and theme for an application.
Never generalise the cultural significance of colours
No matter where in the world you go, you would realise that developers often live in a state of limbo.
While on the one hand, there’s a technological world that boasts of borderless societies; on the other hand, there is another world that is divided because of cultural differences.
Universal mobile apps have consistently accounted for geographical attributes and cultural markers to make them relatable for the target audiences.
Colour schemes and palettes are dedicated to matching the application’s purpose in a specific country or region.
For example, white and black might seem standard neutral colours that you can use across various applications.
But while it symbolises peace and calmness for one culture, it might denote death and mourning for others.
Think out of the box
A data-driven marketing strategy that relies on existing figures and proven examples often discredit ideas that have not been done before.
This is primarily because of the uncertainties and risks associated with the unknown.
But what we miss out on is that originality can also become a breakthrough from the old monotonous flow of patterns and designs within an application.
Some well-known companies like Google, Burger King, Warner Bros, and Microsoft have recently changed their logos and colour themes to pace with the modern shift in designs.
Despite the criticisms they have received for the changes, the companies realise that people would soon associate the new change and originality of the design that makes them unique from their competitors.
So don’t back out from breaking the colour rules to make your app distinctive.
Adjust the theme to its purpose
It doesn’t make sense if the design of the user interface is decided on a whim without considering its purpose or the emotions it has to evoke.
Let’s take an example of an application meant for humanitarian purposes – a refugee rehabilitation program.
If we were to add vivid contrasting elements with red as its primary colour, it would seem highly insensitive and take away the essence to support the cause.
Green, blue, and white are standard colours used for humanitarian causes to evoke warmth, compassion, and sensitivity.
An application with the appropriate eye-catching colour theme would grab the attention of its users and generate a positive response.
If we were to move away from the conventional idea of art and design, you would realise that mobile app development services are constantly striving to make the best masterpiece the world has ever seen.
If the app is an art, its users are its most significant critic, and its success always depends on their critical reviews.
Colour is the medium of expressing our emotions, connecting to the infinite, reshaping the abstract, and various other possibilities that open up our senses.
Its harmonious blend can create the best solutions for designs and appeal to its users’ perspectives.
Therefore, choosing the appropriate colour scheme and theme for our application would impact its user experience and make an unforgettable brand statement.
Author Bio: Hardik Shah is a Tech Consultant at Simform, a firm that provides mobile app development services in Los Angeles. He leads large-scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardisation, and best practices.