How to Choose the Right Color Scheme for Your Website

Choosing Website Colors

First impressions matter. Your website is one of the very first chances you get to make an impression on a potential client—and the color scheme you use is often the very first thing that has an impact. 

When you meet with FWM’s web design team to create a new website, one of the things that we will discuss is your color scheme. Do you like the colors on your old website? Do you already use certain colors in your practice’s letterhead or logo? Are there certain colors that you particularly like or think might look good together?

It's worth thinking about these things ahead of time because, even though it sounds like a simple step, the color scheme you choose goes a long way toward setting the tone for your website. And, in the end, those colors often become the most memorable and immediately recognizable part of your branding. 

What colors do you want your potential clients to see when they visit you online? Here are some guidelines for picking colors that look and work great.  

Less Is More When Choosing Colors for Your Website

How many colors do you need to choose for your website? Our designers believe that less is more! We typically recommend that our clients choose no more than three colors. In fact, one of the most common mistakes we see with website design is over-design, including the use of too many different colors. When you have too many colors going on, your website starts to look busy, overwhelming, and maybe even tough to navigate. By limiting your palette to just a handful of colors, you get a much cleaner design. 

Too few colors is always better than too many! If you’re working with a very minimalist design, you might even just choose two colors to start with. 

You also want to make sure that the two or three colors you choose look good together. Our designers typically like to go with the “60-30-10” rule. Following that rule, you’ll choose a primary color, a secondary color, and an accent color. Then, on your website, the primary color is used about 60 percent of the time, while the secondary color is used 30 percent of the time. The accent color is used only sparingly—about 10 percent of the time. 

If you have lots of design elements (buttons, sidebars, custom graphics, etc.), you may need a little more variance in your color scheme. However, instead of picking totally new colors to fill in the gaps, we recommend that you simply use different shades and tints of your three main colors. Don’t sweat it, though! Our designers will walk you through what you need, and we can suggest some options if you get stuck. 

Put Some Deep Thought Into How Your Website Colors Look to Others

There are a few other issues you want to consider before you pick the colors for your website. Although these are the tips that we’ve found work best for our clients at FWM, we believe that they’re applicable everywhere:

  • Think about color connotations. Colors are meaningful to people and often evoke particular emotions. So, as you choose your colors, think about the kinds of emotions you want your readers to have when they visit your website. Red is an assertive color, but it can also potentially remind people of blood and violence. Brown is subtle and earthy, but many people also associate it with dirt and waste. The shades and tones you pick can really matter here. For example, bright red might look “bloody,” but a deeper or warmer red can have a completely different feel, especially when balanced with your secondary and accent colors.  
  • Pick colors that work great online. Different colors look different on various computers and devices. It’s a huge mistake to think that your website looks exactly the same to everyone! Colors that look bright gold on your screen may look like—gasp!—urine on someone else’s screen, and that pretty spring green you picked out may look a little sickly to someone else. Before choosing colors, take a minute to learn more about web-safe colors, and test your color scheme on multiple devices before you finalize your choices.  
  • Keep your target audience in mind. Your website shouldn’t really about you. Instead, it should be about your perfect clients! Put yourself in your web visitors’ shoes. What colors calm you? What colors do you associate with knowledge and trust? This is almost always going to give you a better-looking website than just choosing random colors that YOU like. 

Experiment to Find the Most Effective Color Scheme for Your Website

While our web design team can help you pick a great design, we also want you to know that you can participate in the process and experiment with web color schemes yourself. In fact, there are a number of free tools and applications that you can explore before you consult with us. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started: 

  • Adobe Color. This slick, fun-to-use tool lets users experiment with color schemes and explore a bevy of color options and combinations. Anyone can play with the click-and-drag color wheel—or even extract a color palette from an image or photo! However, to save your color schemes or use them in other Adobe programs, like Photoshop or Illustrator, you must have an Adobe account.  
  • Web Safe Color Picker. This is a super simple tool that lets you pick from a grid of all web-safe colors, and it returns the color value codes you need to pass on to your designers. This site also lets you compare up to six different colors to see how they look together on the page, find complementary colors, and do lots of other cool stuff. 
  • HTML Color Picker. This tool lets you choose colors with a click, or you can enter the HTML color value. You can see a range of shades, how the color looks with light or dark text, and play with hue, saturation, and lightness. It’s a little more “technical” than some of the other options we’ve recommended here, but it can be a great way to get granular about the colors you want to use.  

Choosing a color scheme for your website is tough because you are in a balancing act between too bland and too busy. You want your website to be memorable, but you don’t want visitors to be confused or overwhelmed. You want to improve your branding, but you don’t want to sacrifice simplicity. There’s a lot of experimentation involved!

Do you feel overwhelmed by your design choices? Do you want a fresh pair of eyes on your design ideas? No sweat. 

Schedule a design consultation with our award-winning team, or give us a call at 888.886.0939. You’ll get the personalized advice you need to avoid common mistakes and build a website that looks great and works hard to bring in the clients and cases you want for your business. 

Gretchen Upright
Connect with me
Chief Business Development Officer
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