In UI (User Interface) design, colour is a key part of making the user experience interesting and visually appealing. Colours not only make an interface look nice, but they can also make you feel something, tell you something, and help you figure out what to do next. Effective colour choices can make an app or website easier to use and better for the user while staying true to the brand’s identity. This post will go into detail about how to choose colours for UI design. Along the way, it will talk about important things to think about, best practises, and give examples.
Getting to Know Colour Theory:
Before starting the process of choosing, it’s important to know a little bit about colour theory. Colour theory is the study of how colours relate to each other, what their qualities are, and how they can be put together in a way that looks good. Here are a few important things to remember:
Colour Wheel: The colour wheel is a way to see how colours are put together in a circle. It is made up of primary colours (red, blue, and yellow), secondary colours (made by mixing two primary colours), and tertiary colours (made by mixing a primary and a secondary colour).
Colour harmony means putting together colours that look good together and work well together. Colour harmony methods include using colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel, colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel, and different shades of the same colour.
Colour traits include hue (the colour family), saturation (the intensity of a colour), and value (how light or dark a colour is). Understanding these qualities helps you put together colour combinations that look good and are well-balanced.
Things to think about when choosing colours:
When picking colours for UI design, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure everything looks good and fits together. Here are some things to think about:
Brand Identity: Colours should match the brand’s identity and show what it stands for, who it is, and what it is all about. Think about the brand’s logo, its brand standards, and its target audience. For example, a brand aimed at children that is fun and playful might use bright and bold colours, while a brand aimed at adults might choose classy and muted colours.
Emotional Impact: Colours can make people feel things and change how they think and act. Knowing how people think about colours can help you choose them. For example, blue is often used to show trust and calmness, and yellow is often used to show energy and hope. Think about how you want people to feel, and choose colours that will make them feel that way.
Accessibility: Making sure colour is accessible is important if you want to reach more people. Think about people who can’t see well or who have trouble seeing colours (like colour blindness). There should be enough contrast between colours, and other ways, like icons or words, should be used to get important information across. Colour contrast ratios can be measured with the help of online tools like WebAIM’s Contrast Checker.
Colours can have different meanings and associations in different cultures. Find out about the history and preferences of the target audience’s culture to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts. In some countries, white means cleanliness and peace, while in others, it means that someone is sad.
Context and Function: Colours should be picked based on the context and function of the application or website. For example, a work app might use calming colours to help people concentrate, while an e-commerce platform might use bright colours to make people feel excited and in a hurry.
The Best Ways to Choose Colours:
Now that we’ve talked about the things to think about, let’s look at some good ways to choose colours for UI design:
Limit the colour range: To keep things looking nice and smooth, it’s best to keep the colour range to just a few key colours. As a general rule, a primary colour should be the main colour, secondary colours should be used for supporting parts, and neutral colours should be used for backgrounds and text. Limiting the number of colours helps improve the visual order and keep the user from being overwhelmed.
Contrast for readability: Make sure there is enough difference between the colours of the text and the background to make it easy to read. Low contrast can be hard on the eyes, especially for people who already have trouble seeing. If the background is light, use darker colours for the words, and vice versa. Tools like the Contrast Grid by Lea Verou can help you figure out how much difference there is between two colours.
Think about the relationships between colours. This will help you create a feeling of harmony and balance. When two colours on the colour wheel are opposite each other, they create a high contrast effect that can be used to draw attention. When colours that are similar are next to each other, the effect is more gentle and harmonious. Try out different ways of putting colours together to get the effect you want.
Use colour to direct attention. Colours can help users focus on important parts or actions on the screen. Use colour contrast to make sure that important parts stand out. For example, a call-to-action button can be in a different colour than the rest of the page to make it stand out and encourage people to click on it. Use colour carefully to keep the interface from getting too busy.
Test for Colour Blindness: Make sure that your chosen colour scheme can be seen by people who have trouble seeing colours. The Colour Blindness Simulator by Coblis is a tool that can help you try out different kinds of colour blindness and judge your colour choices. If colours are important for getting information across, think about using other clues, like icons or patterns, to help people who can’t see colours.
Colours used in UI design:
Let’s look at some real-world examples of how colour is used well in user interface design:
Slack: Slack is a platform for team discussion. It uses a palette of bright and different colours to show the different channels and members. Each channel has its own colour, which makes it easy for users to tell them apart and move between chats. The colour scheme helps make the user experience lively and interesting.
Trello is a tool for managing projects. It uses colour to sort and rank jobs on a board. Users can give cards different colours to show how they belong to different groups or how important they are. This colour-based organisation makes it easy for users to scan and find the jobs they need, making the system more efficient and well-organised.
Google Material Design: The Material Design framework from Google uses a set of fixed colours that are made to be both easy to use and look good. These colours were picked carefully to make sure there is enough contrast and that they look the same on different devices and platforms. Material Design’s colour rules are a helpful tool for designers who want to make interfaces that look good and are easy to use.
Spotify is a music streaming service that uses a dark background with brightly coloured accents. This method puts the focus on record covers and colourful pictures of the artists, which makes the pictures stand out. The dark background and bright colours make for an intense and visually interesting experience.
Sources and bibliographies:
Here are some good places to learn more about how to choose colours in UI design:
Erik D. Kennedy’s “Colour in UI Design: A Practical Framework”: This detailed guide explains how colours work and gives tips on how to choose colours for UI design.
Adobe Colour is an online tool that lets you look at, make, and save sets of colours. It gives different colour rules and patterns to help choose colours.
Material Design Colour Tool: Google’s Material Design Colour Tool lets creators make and test accessible colour palettes based on WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards.
Vandelay Design’s “The Impact of Colour in Web Design”: This piece talks about how colours affect people’s minds when it comes to web design and gives examples and tips for how to use colours well.
Ethan Marcotte’s “Designing for Colour Blindness”: This post on A List Apart talks about designing with colour blindness in mind and gives ways to make sure that everything is easy to use.
In UI design, choosing colours is a deliberate and thought-out process that includes thinking about brand identity, emotional impact, accessibility, cultural associations, context, and functionality. By knowing colour theory, following best practises, and looking at examples from the real world, designers can make interfaces that are visually appealing, interesting, and easy to use, which improves the user experience as a whole. Don’t forget to try out different colour choices and get feedback from users to keep improving and refining the colour scheme.