In the previous part of this series, we have discussed Typography. In the previous parts you have learned how to plan a website, select the content and give it structure. Before you devote yourself to appearance, you should first be clear about colours and their effect.
Since humans invented the colour screen and no longer have to operate the computer via brown or green monochrome screens, colour has become much more important for the design of user interfaces. Initially, the possibilities were limited by the low capabilities of the first browsers and by the very low bandwidth. Serious or technical offers, which rely on the rapid exchange of information, dispensed with the then very innovative possibilities of browsers to output text in different colours, to load a background image or a GIF animation, because this meta-information for the browser has shared the same space in the transmission as the right information for the user.
The fact that today fast Internet is available almost everywhere and bandwidths of up to 25,000 kb/s, 400 times as fast as a modem of the late 90s, has enormously expanded the design freedom of the Internet. In the infinite field of possibilities to design one’s website, it is important in the interest of the users and thus also of the operator that order is created in these possibilities.
The digital colors
The evolution of screens, operating systems, and graphics cards has produced some “magic numbers” that you should know.
A screen today runs in the so-called “True Color” mode and can display over 16 million different colours and colour levels. Much more than “True Color”, colours in 32-bit, the human eye can not perceive, hence the name.
The monitor uses the same three colours as the light itself: red, green, and blue. The proportion of these three basic colours determines the expression of the actual colour. The proportion of one of the three colours on the computer can range from 0 to 255. The weighting from 0 to 255 can be displayed in 8-bit or in one byte. A colour value thus occupies a total of three bytes with red, green and blue. 3 x 8 = 24. A bit has two states, 224 = 16,777,216 different colours.
These facts provide a useful overview and understanding of colour in digital systems. As you can see, you can’t avoid a bit of arithmetic. You will not be able to avoid using a colour palette, because the exact calculation of one colour from the binary portion of three other colours exceeds the possibilities of human imagination. However, you can use the colour wheel to approximate a colour on the palette. And you can still remember a basic rule: If the proportion of all three colours is the same, this results in a grey tone whose brightness depends on the height of these three equal numbers.
The most common representation of colour on the web is the hexadecimal representation of the three colour components. The attribute colour in HTML or the property of the same name in CSS announces such a representation. It is introduced by a double cross # followed by nine hexadecimal digits.
If hexadecimal representation seems too complicated and abstract to you, you can also call a procedure in CSS that accepts three decimal colour values for red, green, and blue in that order. This procedure is called RGB. In addition, the procedure understands percentages, such as rgb(100%, 100%, 100%).
Selecting a Color
The choice of colours is taken away from you if a company makes relatively strict specifications, which are part of the corporate design. Then you don’t have to worry about the selection anymore. Sometimes, however, for some reason, further development of the colour scheme is necessary, for example, because the guidelines do not contain provisions for a website, or because these guidelines want to be extended.
There are software (plural) which makes it easier for you to assemble a palette according to the principles of colour theory. So you do not have to study Goethe’s theory of colours to come to a harmonious result.
Important when choosing colours: they must match each other. Hard-cut colours, such as red-blue, black-white, or green-red, are only to be used in the interest of clarity (e.g. black text on a white background) and otherwise rather avoided because of the effort they mean for the eyes. By the way, since about 2005, no web designer has used monochrome colouring for a website. Since 2011, colours on websites have taken a back seat in favour of clear communication, as websites on mobile devices mainly attract attention with functions and information.
Seriousness and professionalism go hand in hand with a certain distance and moderation. Your reputable services are open to every customer. White (#FFFFFF), Blue (#0000FF), Light blue (#1E90FF), and Grey (#E0E0E0) are commonly used colours on professional websites.
Companies that rely on strong attention and want to “yell” at their customers in terms of colour rely on hard-cut colours, which are usually complementary to each other. That is, the colours are opposite each other in the colour wheel. These colours are mainly used in medium-sized retailers, which are aimed at consumers with their advertising and want to attract attention. Strong blue, Golden orange, Red, Black, White, and Bright yellow are the colours of this segment.