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Interview With Greg Huntoon, Colour in Website Design

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 19 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Web Design Designing A Website Marketing

Designing a website means having to consider every design component to ensure you create an attractive site that customers want to visit. Research has indicated that colour plays a major role in how we interact with websites. Greg Huntoon is an expert web designer and offers his insight into how to use colour effectively on your business’s website.

Why is mood important to web design and what do we mean by that?

Greg: "Mood's importance, as with any other form of communication is directly tied to the intent and mode of communication. Some could argue that the mood of the viewer/reader matters little on certain sites, such as research sites filled with academic text. But for the majority of us in the design world, we build the interactive marketing campaigns for our clients, large or small, and the mood we set is essential for a campaign's success. "

How does the concept of a design mood influence how we interpret web content?

Greg: "Colours, fonts, and imagery - the visual components of a design - set the tone for anything we view on the web. Whether the site is filled with poor and disjointed colour choices, beautifully constructed, or simply bare and institutional we immediately construct a mood from the visuals presented. Now since reactions to colour are quite subjective, there's nothing to say that the designer's intended reaction to a certain colour combo will be what was desired. Either way, the colours (and other elements) of any design set the stage."

What design systems could a site owner use to influence the mood of its visitors?

Greg: "This is a pretty broad question. Adding to those aforementioned items (colours, fonts, and imagery) one of the other main elements of a site's design which can greatly affect mood are the animation or motion theory of the site, and sound. Sites with quick, stylish Flash animation have a far different feeling than a site utilising clunky .gif animations. Intelligently deployed, motion and sound can buttress any mission to set a mood."

Web 2.0 sites seem to have their own particular design toolset and colour palette. Can you explain why these particular fonts and colour have been adopted by many of the so-called social networking sites?

Greg: "I disagree that Web 2.0 sites have a particular palette. I do agree that there is a design sense or style that fits in with a majority of Web 2.0 sites, but the palettes are all wildly different. What is the same though, throughout a majority of Web 2.0 sites are the colour usage, theories and application.

"Web 2.0 sites determine many of their dominant design decisions based on usability and functionality. For example, notice how most forms on 2.0 sites are 150-200% of a more traditional site design? That is not a design decision as much as it is functionality suggesting design. Bigger forms are more readable and easier to inspire a visitor to fill out the form.

Rounded edges, soft gradients, large fonts; these are some of the other staples of 2.0 sites. They have become staples because they greatly improve the readability of the web. It's much easier for content to scream off the page if you can read the page from across the room."

It's often said that the best websites are those that have intuitive interfaces so that their users can easily navigate around them.  How important is colour in that design?

Greg: "I've always considered myself a bit of a navigation nut. Personally, I think it's just about the most important thing you can possibly attend to when building a website. Not that all other pieces don't need their due attention, of course each piece does, but if you neglect creating a sound and solid navigation structure, and your visitors routinely get lost, you have completely failed in your mission to create an intuitive experience, regardless of the site's intention and motive. 

"An intuitive interface, by definition, is one that is understood without thought or exploration. Upon arrival at any given site, it should be clear how to navigate, discover, search and return without forcing the user to search out these base functions. The attention span of the average visitor is strained, at best, and giving them extra work to get around your site will kill their chance of a significant length of stay.

"Colour is no more important in making a site's navigation intuitive than the role colour plays in making sure that my car gets me to my office safely each and every day. The role of contrast is infinitely more important than the choice of colour in building intuitive navigation, as contrast will help your navigation stand out from the rest of your content."

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