First impressions are lasting impressions! Whether buying a house, a book, or even a product from a web site, we buy what looks attractive or reliable from the outside.

Colors, like words, are used to communicate. Color is central to our lives – we rely on color to convey both emotional and psychological impacts that work subtly on the unconscious. For example, when was the last time you went into a restaurant and didn’t eat? Reason? Look at the color combinations – orange, red, yellow! With all of those “hungry” colors, who wouldn’t eat?

The purpose of color in your business’ web site design is not solely to attract attention, but to enhance the browsing experience of your customers. Through effective use of color, you can influence the mood of your customers. Blue, for example, relaxes, refreshes, cools; produces tranquil feelings and peaceful moods.

By adhering to a few simple rules, you TOO can make the most of color on your web site.

1. CONSULT the color palette!

While it is true that more and more of us are upgrading to higher resolution monitors, you must be aware of the fact that some of your customers’ monitors may still be set at 256 colors. One of the givens of web design is the sanctity of the 216 web-safe color palette.

Although most monitors today can display 256 colors, only 216 colors are common between the Mac and the PC. By sticking to the 216 web-safe color palette, you will ensure that your web page is displayed consistently across multiple platforms. After all, you can still paint a Picasso with 216 colors!

2. PLAN a color scheme!

Nothing is more entertaining than the excessive use of color! In fact, I recommend that you use as many different colors as possible on each page! WAIT! STOP! I was just joking! You should choose two or three, at most four, colors that give your site a sense of familiarity and professionalism that is easily recognizable to your prospects. If you have no design sense, check out: http://www.colorschemer.com/online.

3. ORGANIZE your colors!

Colors define your site’s mood and style – they also help organize. You can use different color combinations for different heading levels, for example, to make it easier for your customers to recognise the different sections of your web site.

4. PREVIEW your color combinations!

Your text and background color combination is crucial to the legibility of your web site. Although a white background with black text is the safest combination, you may use other combinations as long as your customers do not have to strain their eyes to read your text. If they have to – they’re gone!

You might as well have personally packed their bags and sent them on an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii! To help you preview your chosen text/background combination, visit: http://www.pagetutor.com/pagetutor/makapage/picker

5. OPTIMIZE your graphics!

Adding color images to your site? A rule of thumb is, “Lots of colors, use JPEG…solid colors or no gradations, use GIF.”  Regardless of which file format you use, reducing the number of  colors creates a smaller image file size. And a smaller image file size leads to a faster loading web page.

You can use tools such as NetMechanics’ GIFBot (http://netmechanic.com/GIFBot/optimize-graphic.htm), to help optimize your image size by removing extra colors that aren’t being used. Do be aware that reducing color in your images will also reduce quality. Therefore, the goal is to achieve a balance between file size and image quality.

6. BE CONSISTENT!

Your color scheme should remain consistent throughout your site. As confusing as the internet can be, why add more confusion? Consistency fosters familiarity and professionalism and makes your visitors come back!

Web-safe color is a web designer’s nightmare and only one fact is certain – the world of web design will continue to change! So look on the bright side – endure, compromise, and have fun! After all – its progress!