Some important things to remember about using color

by Joe Gillespie — Nov 1, 1999

Depending on the type of surfer your site is aimed at, you will have a pretty good idea of how much you have to religiously adhere to the web-safe palette.

Business people tend to have less well specified computers than home users. If a computer is used mainly for word processing or spreadsheets, high color depths and sound capabilities are not very important. Design accordingly.

Emotive aspects of color.

Apart from the more obvious 'attention seeking', or 'traffic lights colour-coding' uses of colour, its ability to stimulate emotions is of paramount importance. Color can create moods and send subliminal messages to reinforce your communication - if used properly. In the wrong hands, it can just as easily turn people right off.

Colors change with their surroundings.

The perception of a color changes depending on what other colors are next to it. Put a bright magenta against a purple and you get a contrast, but it is fairly static. Put a bright magenta against a vermilion red and you get an effect called scintillation that causes the colours to vibrate against one another.

Quality not quantity.

It's not the amount of colours that you use on a Web page that counts, it's the hues you use! Don't be tempted to take the scatter-gun approach - if you put enough colours in, you are bound to hit some good combinations - colour doesn't work like that.

So, the web-safe palette still has its uses in the year 2000. It's not perfect. It's restrictive. It's less relevant today than it was a year ago. But, if you choose to ignore it, make sure you are doing so for the right reasons.

Convenience is not an attribute of good design.

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