How the psychology of color “colors” the effectiveness of websites.

As one of the five senses, sight is usually mentioned first. And little wonder, if we consider what an integral part of our life’s experience is based on what we see.

Color is a huge part of that — and it goes beyond “sight” as well. We use color not only to pinpoint a place on the visible spectrum, but also to describe intangible factors such as emotions and character traits.

Ever wonder why people talk about “orchestral color”? This seeming contradiction in terms is actually one of the fundamental ways we can “see” music in our minds as well as hear it in our ears. The Russian composer Alexander Scriabin went so far as to associate individual colors on the visual spectrum with specific musical chords; the colors themselves are written into the score for his last orchestral piece, his Fifth Symphony (Prometheus: The Poem of Fire), composed in 1910.

Alexander Scriabin

Recognizing the importance of color and its impact on how humans think and behave, marketers and branding specialists have long made use of the power of color in advertising and design. This continues today in the digital world of websites and other electronic media, where the choice of colors has measurable impact on website engagement and conversions.

Marketing and design specialist Raj Vardhman has compiled a number of interesting facts about the “psychology of color” and its impact on viewer engagement:

  • It takes approximately 90 seconds for a viewer to make a quick product assessment — and two-thirds of this judgment is based on color.
  • Color is a key reason for selecting a particular product. For instance, two-thirds of shoppers won’t purchase a large appliance if it isn’t available in their preferred color.
  • The classic notion of “pink for girls” and “blue for boys” turns out to be generally true (despite the penchant for choosing yellow when a family doesn’t want to “channel” their newborn towards a particular gender identity). Bold colors or shades of blue, black and darker green are preferred by most men, whereas more women prefer soft colors or tints of purple, pink, rose and lighter green.

Furthermore, attitudinal studies show that main color groups convey certain characteristics:

  • Red embodies life, excitement and boldness. It’s used often in iconic consumer brands, but also to announce clearance sales.
  • Blue telegraphs productivity, tranquility and trust. Is it any wonder that blue colors are the hands-down favorite among commercial/industrial product brands?
  • Green evokes growth, nature and harmony. Its use has been growing in recent decades.
  • Yellow personifies joy, intellect and energy. It’s employed by brands to evoke cheerful, sunny feelings.
  • Purple suggests wealth and royalty. It’s no accident that “royal purple” has been with us since Renaissance times.
  • Black projects authority, power and elegance. Not surprisingly, it’s the most popular choice for marketing luxury products. But it can be highly effective in promoting technology products as well.
  • White and silver communicate perfection and pristine clarity. These colors are also popular with technology products, but are used very often in healthcare-related products and services.

These time-honored color characteristics are very much in play in the world of websites. Such aspects are a factor in nine out of ten visitors to a website — half of whom report that they won’t return to a website based on the site’s lack of aesthetics, not just its functionality.

As well, the colors of call-to-action buttons are significant, as studies show that red, orange and green CTA buttons are the best ones for conversions (but only if they stand out from the rest of the content on the screen).

More fundamentally, what this means for website designers is that despite the desire to be “different” or “distinct” from others in the marketplace, many attitudes about color are so fundamental, that to fly in the face of them could well be a risky endeavor.

America’s Smallest Businesses Get Hands-On with Digital Marketing

DIYAs more MarComm activities increasingly migrate to the web and to social media platforms, small businesses are increasingly taking a DIY approach in their marketing programs.

That’s the major takeaway from a survey of nearly 2,600 small business owners conducted by Insight By Design for Webs, a subsidiary of Vistaprint.

For purposes of the study, small businesses were defined as those having 10 or fewer employees.  The results of the field survey, which was conducted in the spring of 2014, were published in Vistaprint’s 2014 Digital Usage Study.

vistaprint-logoTwo-thirds of the small business respondents reported that they are actively using digital products to market their businesses.  Of those who have websites for their business, nearly 60% of them created their own websites using DIY tools.

An even larger proportion — 80% — act as their own webmasters.

Small businesses consider customer acquisition and generating new customer leads as the most important reasons for maintaining a web presence.

In the social media realm, Facebook is the most popular platform for promoting small businesses — so said nearly 90% of the survey respondents who are active in social media marketing.

Facebook is viewed as not only a vehicle for building brand awareness and acquiring new customers, but also for building a network of followers and engaging with them over time.

The survey’s respondents reported that all of the other major social platforms lag far behind Facebook in importance:

  • Facebook: ~88% consider it to be a highly important social media channel for their business
  • LinkedIn: ~39%
  • Twitter: ~31%
  • Google+: ~22%
  • Pinterest: ~20%
  • YouTube: ~17%

In line with its perceived importance as a marketing channel, about two-thirds of businesses that have Facebook business profiles are also engaged with paid advertising campaigns on the social platform — or are considering doing so.

No question, small businesses have concluded that social media marketing is the best way for them to create brand awareness and expand their reach in a very low-cost yet effective manner.  So don’t look for any slowdown in the adoption of social strategies going forward.

Stanford Weighs In on Web Credibility

Web credibility.With more than 200 million web sites in cyberspace these days, what makes the difference between the good ones and bad ones? That’s what Stanford University has sought to find out through a multi-year research project.

The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab conducted research with a cross-section of more than 4,500 web consumers over a three-year period. Distilling the mountain of information gleaned from this sample, the Lab issued its Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility. It boils the research findings down to ten basic guidelines that, if followed, mean that a web site will be viewed as credible and authoritative.

In reviewing the Stanford guidelines, some of them stand out to me as ones that are too often missed by web developers. In particular:

Show there’s a “legitimate” organization behind the web site. Listing a physical address – not a P.O. Box – is one way to do this.

Make it easy to verify the accuracy of information. Third-party citations and data references, along with links to other respected web sites, are ways to accomplish this.

Make sure the site is “intuitive” and easy to navigate. People’s tolerance level for a web site that doesn’t follow a clear, logical thought path is low.

Update site content often. People put less credibility in sites that look like they’re informationally static or stale.

And especially important: Stanford’s research found that content errors should be fixed, no matter how inconsequential they might seem. It turns out that broken links, bad spelling, poor punctuation and other typos negatively affect the credibility of web sites more strongly than many other factors — and yet they’re among the easiest items to fix.

When you look at the overall web credibility guidelines from Stanford, they aren’t particularly challenging – and they shouldn’t be hard to put into practice.

But when you consider how lame many web sites actually are, it’s another reminder of how – in web design as in so much else in business and government – “best practices” too often fall victim to expediency or just plain slipshod execution.

Search Engine Rankings: Page 1 is Where It’s At

All the hype you continually hear about how important it is to get on Page 1 of search engine result pages turns out to be … right on the money.

In a just-released study from digital marketing company iCrossing, nearly 9 million “non-branded” search queries conducted on Google, Yahoo and Bing were analyzed, with the clickthrough percentages from the first, second and third pages of the search engine results (SERPs) tallied.

It turned out that more than 8.5 million clickthroughs were made from the first page of results – a whopping 95% of the total. The rest was just crumbs: Clicks off the second page came in under 250,000, while third-page clicks clocked in at a paltry ~180,000.

The results were essentially the same for the three major search engines (all at 95% or 96%) – so it’s a clean sweep across the board and clearly behavior that fits all across the spectrum.

What this suggests is that when searching on generic or descriptive terms, most people will not go past the first page of results if they can’t find a site link that interests them. If they don’t hit paydirt on the first page, they’re far more likely to try another search using different keywords or phrases until they find a site on Page 1 that does the trick.

Comparing this newest iCrossing study with research from a few years back reveals that Page 1 clicks represent an even higher proportion today; earlier studies from a few years back had it pegged at 80% to 90%.

The implications of this study are be clear: if you’re looking to attract visitors to your site via generic or descriptive subject searches, you’d better make sure your site is designed so that it achieves first-page ranking … or your web efforts will be for naught.

That being said, the recipe for success in ranking hasn’t changed much at all. Despite all of the tempting “link juice” tips and tricks out there, the main keys to getting high rankings continue to be creating loads of good web content … speaking the same “language” as searchers (however inaccurate that might be) … and maintaining lots of good links to and from your site to increase its “relevance” to search engines.

No doubt, it’s getting tougher to achieve Page 1 ranking when there’s so much competition out there, but it’s well worth the effort.