Many web designers overlook the importance of color when designing a web site. Color should be one of your first concerns when it comes time to start your web site design. If you don’t pay close attention to the colors you chose, your site you will end up either plain and boring or so chaotic it’s hard to look at. The color you use should only be chosen after careful consideration.
Unfortunately web browsers can only see 256 colors. Even that number is hindered because all browsers don’t share the same 256-color pallet. Currently web browsers only share 216 common colors. When designing key elements in your web site you should stay within the 216-color pallet.
If you go outside the 216 color pallet you start to use colors that do not exist within that browser. The browser has to mix the colors that do not exist. In order for the browser to display the color, it needs to take tiny dots from the colors native to that browser to come up with an approximate color. This is known as dithering. Some displays will distort the tiny dots to the point where the image is so speckled that it does not appear to be a solid color. This makes text very hard to read if it is placed over the dithered color. You should always use a browser safe color when using solid color as a design element. Some of the browser safe colors should be used with caution though.
Most of the eye operations are muscular and just like all other muscles it tires out. I will illustrate with an example. (This is a test I learned about 7 years ago and is very effective to get the point across). This is a simple test that should take only 45 seconds. If you do this short test, you will be better able to understand what I’m about to say.
1) Look at the black dot in the red box for 25 seconds from about 10 -15 inches away from your monitor. You must keep your focus on the black dot for this test to work.
2) After the 25 seconds look at the dot in the white box for 20 seconds. (You must focus on the black dot)
3) What color did you see in the white box?
What did you see when you looked at the white box? Did you see a bluish green color? (If not go back and do the test over). No this is not a trick or hallucination. There is a simple explanation. Without getting too technical, I’ll tell you what just happened.
In the back of your eye there is a thin layer of tissue that contains millions of tiny light-sensing nerve cells called rods and cones. Cones respond to specific wavelengths of light. Your eye is filled with color decoding cones. When you looked at the red box the cones that detect the red wavelength become tired and fatigued. When this happens the opposite cones in your eye start to kick in. Hence the bluish green color you saw. Now that you know there is a scientific reason behind eye fatigue you should apply it to your web site.
I’m sure you have you noticed that caution signs are usually yellow. Pure yellow strains your eye more than any other color because of that, it is the first color your eye will fix on. Using these colors (I still advise you to use it sparingly) for banners and advertisements will receive more attention from the viewer’s eye. Once the visitor comes to your site there is really no reason you should irritate the visitor with bright colors. You have done a good job if they are viewing your site.
You should use yellow and red colors sparingly in your web site itself. Only use them in areas where you want the visitor to focus on. Do not make large parts of your web site with bright color. It might get your visitors attention but they will either consciously or subconsciously notice their eyes getting fatigued. This will make them not want to look at your web site for long periods of time. There are enough reasons why a visitor would leave your web site. You don’t need to add to that list by using irritating color.