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How Colours and Patterns Date Your Website

This is a guest post by Steve Daniels

website colors

When you’re next round your Grandma’s house, take a look around at the décor on display. No doubt when you’re there it’s going to ‘feel’ very Grandma-ish and you’ll probably find it’s not the most stylish or modern looking place, but it might be hard to initially put your finger on what it is that’s dating it. A Grandma you see can take the most modern home with the most modern furniture and layout and somehow still manage to make it look dated and old fashioned, so the question is… how??

The answer is simple – it’s their choice of colours and patterns. In fact there’s even a pattern named after them – ‘Granny pattern’. As soon as you see those pastel colours and those washed out flower patterns on beige backgrounds you know you’re in an old lady’s home, and as soon as you walk into a room adorned with burgundy and browns you’ll know it’s an old man’s place.

So the question is, how might colours and patterns be affecting your website? Are you using a ‘granny’ pattern of the web? Or do your colours suggest futurism and modern design? Let’s find out…

‘Granny Pattern of the Web’

Of course using the ‘granny pattern of the web’ is something you don’t want to be doing and something that would instantly date your site, so what do you need to avoid? Well just like your Grandma’s walls you should be trying to steer clear of any kind of pattern that’s too ‘busy’. Rather than having pages filled with flowers and squiggles or rocks, you should be looking for background images that are abstract, that don’t repeat and that are more subtle. When the web first started lots of people were using repeating backgrounds made up of stones or computer chips, but this has now become synonymous with those early sites and 56k modems that can’t render large images speedily.

Likewise being minimalistic where possible is something that has become trendy and popular and this is true of both interior designs and web design. Large empty spaces make your layouts look larger, while at the same time avoiding a kind of ‘options paralysis’ that happens when people don’t know where to look because there’s too much information.

Cool Colours

You also need to think about which colours themselves are ‘in’ when it comes to technology and here there are a number of things to consider. White at the moment for instance is very ‘in’ with this being a great minimalistic option, as are block colours that offer a stark contrast against such a background. For a while a year or two ago a lot of sites were white, orange and blue and this was a very trendy colour scheme to opt for, but now they tend to use more whites mixed with primary colours. Black and white with splashes of red is particularly fashionable for clothing, so you can mimic this to create a very trendy look for your site potentially.

Blues meanwhile are very safe and have largely been popular throughout time – particularly for corporate sites. Avoid a strictly navy and white colour scheme though as this has been done too often – use lots of shades of blue to make your site look more modern and to echo imaginary interfaces such as those seen in Minority Report. Note though that any ‘vision of the future’ is going to be particularly highly susceptible to going out of date quickly. While Minority Report may look futuristic still now, in a few years this will change and we’ll realise that our predictions of the future were outdated. Just as Dr Evil’s attempts to dress Austin Powers in a futuristic silver-jumpsuit ends up coming off as kitsch, you need to make sure you update your concept of futurism regularly unless you want to end up looking ‘retro futuristic’ – and rather ironic as a result.

While the look of the web is still very ‘crisp’ and minimalist – something that the ‘Metro look’ takes even further – I do see an end to this trend and something else stepping in – block ‘neon’ colours that use transparencies. It looks high tech, it again takes advantage of modern technology, and it has a very ‘Tokyo’ feel to it. Check out the design of apps like ‘Chameleon Launcher’ and see if you can integrate that kind of colour scheme into your site for something that’s one step ahead of the curve.

Just avoid granny patterns…

Learn more about Steve Daniels and the Web Design service that Razorlight Media provide – If you’re looking for affordable online services, get in touch!

20 responses to “How Colours and Patterns Date Your Website”

  1. As someone who does not have an eye for it, I enjoyed this detailed exploration of color schemes. Well written and well done.

    ~ Stephen

  2. Adrienne says:

    Hey Steve,

    Well I was doing pretty good until I got to the part where you said “avoid a strictly navy and white colour scheme though as this has been done too often”. Guess I’m screwed because navy blue is my favorite color and that is what my main blog header consists of.

    My blog theme is very minimalist though because I don’t like blogs that are very busy or too colorful. I get a headache if I stay on them too long so I avoid those like the plague.

    I think as long as it’s pleasing to the eye and your content will keep them coming back then you’ll be fine. I’m speaking from experience here so I’m running with that.


  3. Carolyn says:

    I am very uncool, so I run any design ideas by my panel of uber cool experts. They haven’t yet let me down!

  4. Josh says:

    I just don’t want to make my readers crazy by having something that is too busy and cluttered.

  5. Lisa says:

    Jens, I love using colors on my sites but my new retail site coming soon, is white with black and just a red color. Trying to keep it more simple. I think colors can play a huge role if you are selling stuff online. SOme colors will make people not stay on your site and others will make them stay longer. I find it fascinating!

  6. Ashvini says:

    Choosing color has always been a pain for me , since I was never good at designing or at coloring. I always had to search for good color combination. My favourite combination is blue( shades of it) and white. I also use a software called as ColorSchemer which helps me to get a better handle on how colors are created and matched.
    I also love the minimalist look.
    Thanks for sharing the ideas with us.

  7. Terence says:

    Thank you for this interesting and crucial information.

  8. Salman Ahmad says:

    Colors have their own psychology. Each color has some other kind of impression over readers mind. Like yellow and orange I think, increases the value of appetizing.

  9. Tim Bonner says:

    Hi Steve

    I keep things pretty minimal on my blog, although I do use navy and white.

    Something I may reconsider in the future but for now it works very well for me.

  10. Cararta says:

    Color and pattern are personal choices…..using generalities as a standard are a personal choice also.
    The Blogs I like the best are the ones that have a consistent pattern for navigation, display of information and eye catching extras scattered here and there. without shocking my senses with a Black site or Shocking Hot Pink with neon lights flashing.

  11. Bell says:

    Interesting, actionable observations here — I would have loved to see them accompanied by screenshots of websites you feel are doing it right. At least a couple. I’m sure the screenshots would qualify as fair use, and the owners wouldn’t mind the exposure.

    Bonus points for suggesting that people try to stay ahead of the design curve.

  12. Juliet says:

    I would be interested in your ideas about specific patterns other than a granny-ish floral. Are graphic patterns like stripes, chevrons, squiggles still on trend…and what’s next?

  13. Yasir Khan says:

    Choosing color patterns for your website is crucial because it will reflect what type of website and business you have. You have to make sure that your website color looks professional and interesting to the eyes of the viewers.

  14. Joy says:

    Love at first sight — this is your aim in designing your site so that readers will instantly fall in love or, at the very least, get attracted to it. Our choice of color can help achieve such goals. Thanks for all the tips.

  15. Stacey says:

    I used to design my site based on my favorite colors and patterns. Unfortunately, I am not that good in my choices. I have, since then, learned that I should design my site to please my target readers, not myself. That’s why it’s important that we design the website with these people in mind. Will they like it or will the color alone instantly turn them off? Thank you for your valuable inputs. I will definitely make use of them.

  16. Colors are going to be the first factor in webdesign, its amazing skills to chose some excellent color for the website. Color combination is a difficult task.

  17. Calra says:

    The overall look of the site is important for readers and site owner. It can make or break your chances of success in your online business. I will definitely kee in mind all these tips about colors and patterns. Thanks.

  18. Kelly says:

    I learned a lot from your post. Now I know why my site is not generating as much traffic despite the good contents that I have. I’ll change the patterns and the colors right away. Thanks for sharing and more power.

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