What Google’s Image Filters Can Teach Us About Color

April 8, 2016
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After months of testing, Google has finally added the color image search filters. Though a relatively small detail, there might be a bigger lesson we can learn from the color wheel that can help you ensure a positive user experience and drive the amount of time users spend on your page.

If you run a Google image search, you’ll see a colorful bouquet of filters at the top. Aside from enhancing the overall aesthetics of the page, there’s something to be said about the way those colors make the user feel. Maybe it’s so subtle you don’t notice any difference at all, or perhaps the filters, ranging from aqua hues into deeper purples and more, enhance the search experience on a psychological level.

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Color psychology is an often dismissed branch of behavioral psychology that studies the way hues act as a determinant of human behavior. Because color influences in ways that aren’t obvious and are somewhat subconscious, the effect can best be explained by the feelings of dislike you experience when you encounter colors you don’t like. For example, take a look at lingscars.com.

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As someone who spends most of my day looking at different web pages, I respond very quickly and with much sensitivity to color, and the lack of color flow here makes this example feel like spam. Full of competing colors, it immediately evokes feelings of stress, chaos, and discomfort-none of which are conducive to making someone want to buy a car. Even if your website doesn’t do it to this degree, an unbalanced design or poor color palette could be costing you first impressions, potential customers, and money.

Customers form an opinion about products within 90 seconds. That number is even smaller for websites, as an impression is typically made on visitors within a mere 60 seconds. Based on color psychology research, anywhere from 62-90% of that impression is being determined by color alone, which seems to make a lot of sense. If you feel like you’re being bombarded with neon and pop-up web design, it won’t take more than 60 seconds for you to hit the ‘back’ button in your browser.

This is not to say that all sites should adhere to the same color palette to find success. Obviously, the colors on a website for toys will be different than the colors on a website for a law firm. But the question then becomes how do you choose which colors to use and where exactly do you use them?

Color selection varies based on the product or content you’re pushing to your viewers, but there are certain indisputable truths that you can base your choices on. If your target audience is mainly women, you should consider that research data indicates a positive response to colors like blue, purple, and green among adult females. If you’re a tech company and want your page to have a modern and calming effect, consider the fact that white notoriously evokes those feelings (think: Google). Being aware of the way colors affect the majority of people can point you towards the end of the rainbow that allows you to best utilize your web design and tailor it to your audience. Employing those particular color tones through the places that emphasize content and action, such as button and text colors, borders, or backgrounds, can give your page the credible appeal it needs to be successful. You can then use your color scheme to create a flow that naturally nudges visitors through your site to your desired end result, whether that may be a share, a purchase, or otherwise.

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