Color Theory for Archival Webpages

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1 Color Theory for Archival Webpages Alyssa Berry Introduction When putting together a website for your Archives, it is necessary to take many things into consideration: the content that will be the most useful for your patrons, the page layout that will best facilitate users, and the technology that will allow you to give your site visitors the best possible experience. One facet of a cohesive, user-friendly website that sometimes gets forgotten is the use of color. From your audience s perspective, few things are as important to the perception of your website as the colors you choose. It is essential that you select colors that are going to leave the correct impression on your audience. Used correctly, colors will make your site feel more natural and put together. i Colors set a mood and portray feelings that your patrons will perceive subconsciously, you can use this effect to your advantage by choosing colors that support the mood you want to portray. If you do not know what connotation the colors you choose possess, then you might inadvertently make your website s users feel uncomfortable, causing you to lose them. It is equally important to consider questions of accessibility when choosing the colors on your website. You may also lose visitors if your color choices make it impossible for them to read your page.

2 I will address these issues of accessibility in the course of this paper, as well as some common issues in website color design. I will also offer some advice for utilizing color theory in the selection of colors for your web page. Advice When choosing colors, the best place to start is with an established color that is connected to your organization, such as the color associated with your university. This color will be used as your base color, and you will tailor your other color choices to it. For my example, I will be using blue: After you have your base color, you will select a contrasting color to act as your accent color. This will be used sparingly in your website; this color can be useful if you need to add a button for you user to interact with. Because it offers a good contrast to my blue, I have chosen gold as my accent color: In addition to the base and contrast colors, a well-designed website uses neutral colors for its content. Generally, you want three neutral colors for your webpage; ii a white, a dark gray, and a light gray provide a good balance of color:

3 When applying these techniques to your web page, you usually want to follow a rule. Where 30% of your webpage is your base color, 60% is your neutral, and 10% is your accent color; the other neutral is used as your text color. When selecting colors for your institution, we can use these guidelines as a place to start. They will help you develop a visually cohesive webpage that is pleasing to the eye. We will start by thinking specifically about who will be using the website for your Archives, and deciding how you want your website to make them feel by selecting colors that will present your organization in the way you want it to be perceived. Color Basics Expression Colors are expressed online using the RGB method, where R stands for red, G for green, and B for blue. Every color available to us is created using these three colors at various intensities. We are also able to use the following to manipulate colors: Hue the perceived value of a color Saturation intensity of a color Value lightness or darkness of a color Tone addition of gray to a pure color Shade addition of black to a pure color Tint addition of white to a color

4 The Color Wheel Colors are generally represented on a color wheel; where each slice of the pie represents a family of colors that can be achieved with different saturations, hues, tints, shades and mixes neighboring colors. Image courtesy of When designing a website, you can create combinations of colors by utilizing the color wheel. There are four kinds of basic color schemes when using the color wheel: iii 1. Monochrome various tints, shades, and saturations of a single base color. This method provides a cohesive look, but it can become monotonous. 2. Complementary based on two colors from opposite sides of the color wheel. This offers a contrast with a big impact, and works well for buttons and objects that need to stand out.

5 3. Analogous three colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. These colors have a tonal similarity, which provides a cohesive, unified feel. 4. Triadic three colors at the points of an equilateral triangle drawn in the center of the color wheel. This will be perceived as diverse, yet balanced. Temperature When considering color options, it is important to know that colors can be sorted into three main categories: warm, cold, and neutral. These categories generally have some associations that we must keep in mind when designing your website. Warm colors have a high amount of red and yellow; they have no influence from the blues. This family also includes the oranges. Usually they are perceived as colors that are energetic, passionate, and positive. They also connote happiness and enthusiasm. They can invoke a sense of warmth in a design, but they can also feel aggressive and bold like the red of a stop sign. Cool colors, on the other hand, have a high amount of blue in their makeup. They are less aggressive than warm colors, and much more soothing; they can even feel refreshing or cleansing, because of the association with water. On the other hand, they can also feel chilly and evoke feelings of loneliness. iv The term neutral colors covers the shades of gray (from black to white) and also the browns. These colors take on the effects of the colors around them, and only bring a small amount of connotation on their own. v These colors can be used frequently throughout your webpage, and will assist the bolder colors in taking on the qualities that you want.

6 Color Perception Using the Psychology of Color As I have stated, colors bring with them certain feelings and emotions. Just like the choice of font, they impart a tone and emotional impact to your webpage. vi For your webpage, I have selected a variety of colors that I believe provide the emotional tone that your organization wants to embody. Dark Red My first choice is a warm color. I chose red for the base color because it gives the impression of strength that an institution like yours must embody. This particular shade of red also reminds the patron of the leather binding on the books that can be found in your Archives. Gold For the accent color, I have chosen gold. Darker shades of yellow, like this one, look antique and are frequently used to denote a sense of permanence, vii which is appropriate for Archives. It also keeps to the theme of a leather-bound book, many of which would have had gold embossing on the cover. Ivory My choice for your first neutral is ivory. It is a sophisticated color, which gets a fair amount of warmth from its brown quality, but retains much of the coolness and purity of its white roots. It is a quiet color,

7 which evokes a sense of history. It also works well with my first two color selections because it represents the pages of the book that my colors are representing. Dark Gray The final color I am choosing for your webpage design is a very deep shade of gray, so dark that it is almost black. This is the color I am choosing for the text of your webpage; it also completes the book visual as the representation of the text of the antique book. Explanation These colors were chosen to make your patrons feel welcome; in order to express this, all of my colors have a warm color temperature. This makes them feel comfortable and inviting to your users. I wanted to ensure that patrons would feel welcomed by your page, which will, in turn, make them feel welcome at your Archives. I also used my color choices as a visual representation of an antique book, as I explained as I laid out my colors. I wanted your webpage to possess a quality of

8 classicism and permanence, which is represented by the leather-bound book that serves as a visual reference for your patrons. Accessibility Importance Now that we have a color scheme for your website, the next step is to ensure that the colors that we will be using do not pose a problem with the accessibility of your webpage. The colors that are used on a website should enhance the reading experience, not distract from it. viii This step will benefit every reader, but it will be especially crucial for any patron who may have some sort of visual impairment, such as color blindness. Color blindness occurs when the cones in a person s eyes are not functioning correctly. Generally, this only affects a person s ability to distinguish between two colors. Most commonly it is an issue with reds and greens. ix Methods In order to ensure that your website would be accessible for all your patrons, I chose a selection of colors that contrast well. The dark gray text will stand out against the ivory and the gold, when it is used for buttons; when writing on the dark red, we will use the gold or the ivory, which will also provide contrast. We must also ensure that any graphics we choose will also contrast with the color we use them on. Once your website is complete, we will perform a test to make sure that we have met the standards for accessibility by opening the page in Photoshop

9 and converting it to grayscale. This will ensure that your patrons will not have a problem reading your site. Color and contrast are key components of usability; text legibility is dependent on the reader s ability to distinguish text from the background of your site. x Conclusion Color is one of the first things a patron notices when he or she comes to your webpage; because of this, it is of the utmost importance that the colors you choose reflect the image you want for your organization. Your color scheme can be used to evoke feelings and emotions: Warmth and openness Comfort Strength and permanence It is also essential that you take steps to make sure that your website is accessible to all your patrons. Choosing highly contrasting colors ensures the legibility of your site for anyone who visits it. Making them feel welcome on your website and in your institution. i O Grady, Neal. (2015, November). Web Design 101: Color Theory. Retrieved from ii Elizabeth, Laura. (2016, April). A Simple Web Developer s Guide to Color. Retrieved from iii O Grady. Web Design 101: Color Theory. iv O Grady. Web Design 101: Color Theory. v Chapman, Cameron. (2010, January). Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color. Retrieved from vi O Grady. Web Design 101: Color Theory. vii Chapman. Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color.

10 viii Tamarina, Aleksandra. (n.d.). Color Theory Basics. Retrieved from ix WebAIM. (2013, August). Visual Disabilities Retrieved from webaim.org/articles/visual/. x O Grady. Web Design 101: Color Theory.

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