The Thin Red Line

When choosing colours for your website, make sure you understand the cultural and emotional relevance they may have to your users.

Qype, the user-generated local reviews site, uses red as an accent colour and as the text colour for it's field labels.

It confused me for a bit.

Red Dawn

Bright red carries a number of cultural connotations, most of them negative. It's seen as denoting danger, a warning or something being wrong. This is not the colour you would normally choose as the label colour for the main tools of a website such as Qype - the search tools.

The search box labels on Qype's homepage seem to say that something is wrong, that some incorrect information has been entered - stay away!

The link that looks most 'welcoming' is the language setting, with a recognisable flag image and black text colour. My eyes were drawn to this first, along with the 'London' value in the Where? field.

Don't get me wrong, Qype is an excellent site. But, it is also, unfortunately, an excellent example of how colour can negatively impact an user's feelings and reactions.

Three Colours Red

Different shades of red can carry differing cultural significance. A darker shade can conjure up a sense of richness, opulence and wealth. A much lighter shade, bordering on the pink, can promote more feminine, light and ethereal qualities. The effect the hue has comes down to how that colour is recognised in the culture of the target audience.

Bright red does, of course, have other qualities than danger. A bright red sports car or motorbike promotes a masculine, sporty image of speed and, sometimes, irresponsibility. But even this might be linked to and conjure up a sense of danger for some people.

Hunt for Red October

So, whilst Macmillan is primarily represented by it's green-coloured and instantly recognisable typeface, it is sometimes important to remember the thinking behind it and the emotional response it is intended to provoke.

Graphic and Web Designers, along with Brand experts, spend a long time determining the impact each colour will have on their intended brand audience. Users hardly recognise the work, but definitely react to the emotional side - as it should be.

Red Dragon

Qype have obviously taken great care over their design and I'm slightly surprised by the colour choice for the accents and links, but their site is very popular. The site works; it delivers search engine results and garners customer reviews, so how much impact does the colour choice actually have?

What would happen if they changed the red to something else? Would it negatively impact their brand, their stats, their site design?

How about turquoise? What films have turquoise in the title...?