Color is a major consideration in any Web design. Whether for an individual, small company, or major corporation, color scheme is one of the most significant factors in the overall look and appearance of a website. In some cases, the designer may have the sole discretion in making color choices, but many times a color scheme has already been established and needs to be followed. In situations where a company already has a strong brand, color usage for the website can either build or take away from this.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the impact that website color schemes have on the overall branding of a company, and we’ll also look at plenty of examples. We won’t be going into the subjects of color choices for branding or the psychology of colors, but rather we’ll look at established companies to see if the colors in their website branding are consistent with the rest of their marketing.
There are companies in every imaginable industry that have spent many years and a lot of money along the way to create a specific image and brand recognition with customers. In these cases, their corporate websites should obviously benefit from this established identity and should work to make it even stronger. However, as we’ll see throughout this article, this is not always the case. Some companies do an excellent job of blending their traditional offline image with a modern website, and others have not taken full advantage of their existing brand images when building their websites.
The example websites we’ll be looking at in this article all belong to companies that have built their brand using specific colors. When you think of these companies, you think of a specific color, and probably a familiar logo that contains these colors. Because branding is so dependent on customer perception, customers also have certain assumptions and expectations of companies that have an established brand.
Many of these examples are major retailers, restaurants and companies that have physical locations where customers can go to purchase products or services. In these cases, each company typically has established colors for the store itself, signage outside the stores, advertising and promotion campaigns and a company website. The branding is usually more effective if the company’s website has a similar feel to that of the physical stores and the identity that the company has developed over time.
Impact of a Website’s Colors Link
Whether you’re looking at a website, a flier in a newspaper, a magazine ad or a retail catalog, color choices are critical to the branding of a company. Most companies have chosen a standard color scheme that is used consistently throughout their marketing materials. When a website is well designed and effectively uses colors that have been branded over the years, the website and the company benefit from the familiarity that the website and the brand have with customers. Loyal customers to the company may be new to the website, but if the website is branded consistently with the company as a whole, those visitors are likely to feel at home instantly because of the consistency.
Colors are critical to building the brand’s image, just as logos are important for the same reason. With many retail companies looking to boost revenue through increased online sales, converting traditional retail shoppers to online customers is a critical step. Many retailers are effectively creating websites that have a very similar look and feel to the actual retail stores themselves. The style and colors of the brand are often replicated as much as possible throughout the website, which creates a more unifying experience for online visitors who have also shopped at the physical retail locations in the past. By building one consistent brand image, the company is able to more effectively meet its customers in the marketplace, whether that is online of offline.
Impact of Color on Visitors Link
When visitors come to the website of a brand they know very well, they’ll often have certain things they expect to find. Of course, they’ll expect to see a company logo that they’re accustomed to seeing. They’ll expect a certain type of content according to the type of website it is. They’ll expect a design style that fits the corporate identity. And they’ll expect to see familiar colors. In many cases, they probably don’t even realize they have all of these expectations; but imagine a company that has branded itself with a particular color for years and years, and now you visit the company’s website and that color is not a major part of the design. You’ll probably be a little surprised, and the website is unlikely to have as familiar a feel as it would have with the traditional colors.
If a company has branded itself a certain way and with specific colors, customers and others familiar with the company will have subconsciously associated those colors with the company. When these people arrive at the company’s website, those colors will be a big part of the experience and determine whether the visitor feels connected to the website or senses a disassociation with the rest of the company’s branding efforts.
Evaluating Use of Color Link
In order to take a good look at this subject, we’ll need to evaluate a number of companies and websites. In the examples here, we’ll see some that do an effective job of working with the company’s existing branded image and color scheme, and we’ll see some that don’t use company colors in quite the way that you might expect. All of these companies have used specific colors very significantly in their branding. Most are very well-established international companies that everyone is familiar with, and in most cases you could associate a color with the brand just by hearing the company name.
Wal-Mart5 has branded itself over the years as the leader in low-cost retail goods. Along the way, it has used the color blue in just about all of its branding efforts. In recent years, Wal-Mart has been trying to upgrade its image in the eyes of customers, but the familiar blue color has not gone away, although the logo did get an update not too long ago.
Like most retailers’ websites, Wal-Mart’s is primarily white, but there is plenty of blue to give it the familiar feel. Navigation and headlines are blue throughout most of the website — the same blue color and same Wal-Mart logo found at Wal-Mart’s retail locations, in fliers and advertisements and in all of its other marketing materials. Throughout the website, orange and yellow are used as secondary colors, but the heavy use of blue in graphics, navigation and headers is what really gives the website a familiar Wal-Mart feel.
Fast food giant McDonald’s7 is very well recognized for its golden arches and prominent red. However, the US home page for McDonald’s does little to build on this strong brand that has been built over a long period of time. The golden arches logo is there, but black is used much more heavily than the gold and red color scheme. Certainly, the website does need to be more than just gold and red, as that would be very hard on the eyes, but it seems that the McDonald’s website doesn’t quite feel like McDonald’s because of this color difference.
Even by just using a white background instead of a black background, the gold and red would stand out more in the design, instead of being overpowered by the black. An area for potential improvement is the primary navigation menu at the top of the page. A red background here would do more to promote the McDonald’s brand and build familiarity with visitors and customers. With the navigation menu currently designed on a black background, gold could be used either in the text colors or on hover.
For decades, the Coca-Cola9 brand has been built with a very familiar red and white color scheme. Everything from product packaging to displays in retail stores to advertisements has predominantly used the same color scheme, and as a result the Coke brand is one of the strongest in the world. The Coca-Cola website does use the red and white color scheme, but there is much less red than you would expect.
The website could easily be a better fit with the company’s corporate identity with a design that has a red background instead of the gray currently being used. The well-known Coca-Cola logo is also not used prominently on the home page. There is a very small logo at the top of the page above the main navigation, which can also be seen on a few of the product labels displayed. The corporate identity could possibly be enhanced by using a larger logo at the top of the page and by showing it in red, or in white on a red background, rather than in gray on a white background.
Coca-Cola’s major competitor, Pepsi11, has also used a standard color scheme in its own branding efforts over the years. The red, white and blue color scheme is a Pepsi staple, and the website is true to form in this area. Most of the website is blue and white with some red in the logo, which stands out more because red is used sparingly. Just about everything on the home page is red, white or blue.
Financial services provider ING13 has branded itself with a blue and orange color scheme. As expected, its website strongly uses these company colors, with orange and blue being almost the only colors used on the website, aside from the white background and the dark gray text. The main navigation menu is orange, and headlines are blue. Of course, the logo also uses orange and blue on the white background.
ING’s online banking customers also see the familiar orange and blue every time they visit their accounts at ING Direct. This website uses more orange in the design, but the color scheme and branding are consistent.
US automaker Ford15 has built its own brand with steady and consistent use of blue. The Ford website obviously is an extension of this branding effort as blue is used as the background color. Although a brand’s colors don’t necessarily have to be used as the background color of the website (most companies still use a white background), Ford manages to push its brand with heavy use of blue on the website. Even design elements such as the search button and the secondary navigation towards the bottom of the screen use shades of blue.
One potential area for improvement in terms of corporate identity would be to use the Ford logo in the header, rather than just the words “Ford Motor Company.” The logo does appear on the home page, but it’s smaller and a bit less noticeable than it would be in the header.
Best Buy Link
Best Buy17 customers know that the company makes heavy use of its blue and yellow color scheme. Even store employees are easily recognizable in their blue shirts. Consistent with the rest of the company’s marketing and branding, the Best Buy website uses the familiar color scheme. Blue is used throughout the website, in the header navigation and even in graphical elements. Yellow is used more sparingly but is certainly a significant part of the website’s design. Because yellow is used in only a few places, it has more of an impact in contrast to the blue colors, and the items in yellow really stand out and draw attention. The Best Buy logo, the yellow shopping cart, the “Go” button on the search form and the “see Steven’s story” button all stand out because of the yellow color. As a result, Best Buy’s website is able to use very little color outside of its standard blue and yellow, and it is still able to emphasize what it wants.
Chocolate maker Hershey’s19 has naturally used the color brown for its own branding. Within the Hershey’s family, several smaller brands each has its own identity and marketing approaches, but for the company as a whole, brown is the predominant color. It should be no surprise then that the Hershey’s website is very brown. In my opinion, the Hershey’s website is more effective at using the company’s established brand and colors on its website than just about any other website featured here. The white background in the content area keeps the website user-friendly, but there’s no mistaking the Hershey’s brand, and the website makes you want to eat one of its products.
Brown is used for the background of the website (with a white background for the content area), as well as the header and primary navigation, the links lower on the page, the items in the sidebar and the website footer. The design does a good job of matching the color scheme to the colors of products in photos that appear on the website, such as the one shown in the screenshot below.
Bank of America Link
Bank of America21 makes use of the US national colors of red, white and blue as the company’s typical color scheme. It’s not unusual that a company attempts to brand itself with national colors, the intent being to benefit from customers’ loyalty to those colors. The Bank of America website clearly builds on this established brand by using only these colors on the website. The background is white, with a red navigation menu and blue used for links and the log-in box at the left of the screen.
T-Mobile23 typically uses a bright pink in its marketing and branding. Often, this color is not the most heavily used color because it can be overpowering and too much to look at if overused, but it will always appear somewhere in the company’s branding. The website makes effective use of this color in the navigation menu, the logo, as well as headlines and links throughout the website. The white background keeps the color scheme from being too over-the-top and makes the website easy to look at, but still maintains the familiar T-Mobile look.
Aside from pink and white, other colors on the website are gray and a soft blue. Pictures of the products used throughout help to give the website a more engaging appearance. The other colors that are used help to soften the look of a design that features as bright a color as pink, but the identity and branding impact of the pink is still obvious.
CVS Pharmacy traditionally uses red and white at its retail stores and throughout its branding. The familiar red color is used heavily in the CVS website in the background (although the content area has a white background) and in the header. There are a few different shades of red used throughout the design, and various shades of blue and gray are also used. Product photos have some additional colors, but throughout the website there is no way to miss the common red and white of the CVS corporate identity. In this case, the red in the header and background has more of an impact than the blues used in the main content area. If those colors were reversed, the website would have a much different feel and would lack similarity with the corporate identity.