Usability and colours


So what are important consideration when selecting colours for your website? In this interview Reece Lamshed asks John Parnell Pierce about website usability and colours .

Colours and usability

Note:  This interview is 6 years old. It was part of a training resource for beginner interactive media students. Though web technology has changed, the principles discussed are  still relevant.


REECE: What about things like colour? Do you think there is anything, a standard, about colour at all or you are quiet open to what colours can be on the website or the menu?

JOHN: I guess the major thing firstly is historically, there is an issue with colours, in that early computers didn’t display all colours true. Now this has became less of an issue, but in reality, historically, had this thing called the website palette which is the collection of colours that we know work consisting across all computers. These days it’s not so important, however, there are issues in that ensuring the colours stand out that you don’t do something like having light grey text on a white background, because that is not gonna be readable. You have to ensure that got a sufficient contrast between your colours so that the user can see what is going on. You probably shouldn’t use clashing colours, so you don’t really want to have a red sitting next to a green. There are plenty of books and websites that can give you information about complimentary colours. So if you are designing website you can go to one of these resources, get a colour table which will show you a collection of colours that work together. You know if you want your site to be sort of use warm colours you can go and find a colour chart for warm colours and you can choose which one you going to use.

The most important thing thought is to preserve the contrast between text and backgrounds and to also use colours to give you visual clues but when you roll over a button it might change colour that indicates active, links that you have visited and have a colour which indicates that you have visited it.

REECE: Standard links? Are you in favour of standard links? Because normally the standard is blue with an underline and then it changes, what, to a purple colour. Are you in favour of that?

JOHN: Personally, I don’t mind. I think as long as there is a difference. I think it is important that other colours be a variation, like purple is blue with a bit of red in it so.


JOHN:  So it reflects (the original color), I wouldn’t go from one colour to a completely different colour.

REECE: As long as it is clear that the word is a hyperlink effectively.

JOHN: Yeah that’s right. And likewise with underlines, some people think you should preserve underlines in text, on your links.

I think that mostly users are sophisticated enough  to know that if they put the mouse on something, if text is a different colour, if they put the mouse on it and it’s got a rollover and it changes colour, they usually know that kind of be a link. Also these other visual cues too,  you usually get a hand icon instead of an arrow when you are sitting on the link.

John built his first website in 1995, With a reputation for being The Internet Guru, he has become the Internet go-to guy for his clients and friends by helping them make sense of the online world, solving their problems and making Internet easy. - John's Website

Posted in Beginners Web Development