Feeling Blue? Why The Most Popular Websites Are Blue

By: Mary Montserrat-Howlett, May 17, 2011

Maybe Eiffel 65 was on to something more than just annoying the living daylights out of us when they released I’m Blue (Da Ba Dee) in 1999. After all, that was the same year Pantone (the global authority on colour) named the colour Cerulean (sky blue) the “Colour of the New Millennium”.

Then in 2008, the company selected Blue Iris as the “Colour of the Year” saying: “Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement.” Last year, turquoise (a mix of cyan blue and green) was named “2010 Colour of the Year” Pantone claiming “turquoise evokes thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of well-being.”

What is it about the properties of blue that draws us to this colour and all its hues? Think about it, so many global companies like IBM, Samsung, AT&T and BMW use blue as the main colour in their logo. And just about every major website incorporates at least one shade of blue into their design. From Facebook, Reddit, Digg, Twitter, Tumblr, Formspring, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Askville, Mozilla Firefox, Mashable, Microsoft, Skype, MSN Windows Live, the White House website, Diigo, and even our very own Web Central Station, true blue dominates the world wide web.

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked why he decided to make Facebook blue in an interview with The New Yorker, he said because he is red-green colourblind (a genetic colourblindness that affects mostly males). The colour he can see best is blue.

“Blue is the richest colour for me,” he told the magazine. “I can see all of blue.”

Since we can’t attribute all graphic artists and web designers choosing the colour blue because of a vision deficiency or just out of the blue, here are 6 main reasons why the most popular websites are blue:

Reason 1: Blue is One of the Most Popular Colours in the World

A survey conducted by three global marketing firms (Cheskin, MSI-ITM, and CMCD/Visual Symbols Library) determined that blue is people’s favourite colour in 17 different countries.

• 42 percent of Americans are fans of blue, (as are 47 percent of Germans and 44 percent of Brazilians).

• Overall, 40 percent of people worldwide picked blue as their favorite colour.

Reason 2: Blue is Gender Neutral

Blue is appealing to both men and women of all ages, though men tend to have a stronger preference for darker shades of blue than women. In a colour-selection experiment conducted by a team of neuroscientists at Newcastle University, they found that while both men and women preferred blue overall, women tended to pick redder shades of blue — reddish-purple hues — while men preferred blue-green. This was the first study to pinpoint a robust sex difference in the red-green axis of human colour vision.

Some attraction theorists argue that men tend toward blue because women find men in blue attractive, whether it’s a blue uniform or business suit. The theory suggests that women associate blue with reliability and dependability, attributes they seek out in the wearer.

Reason 3: Blue is Meaningful

All colours have significance and can evoke different feelings in us. Smashing Magazine has a thorough three-part series on colour theory for designers” target=”_BLANK” that goes into detail about the meanings behind the different colour families, as well as how hue, saturation, tones, tints and shades affect the way we perceive colours.

Blue is a very powerful and meaningful colour, though its significance varies depending on the exact shade and hue. Blue is associated with peace and has spiritual and religious connotations in many cultures and traditions. Because blue is the colour of the sky and the ocean, it is perceived as a constant in our lives. Colour theorists say blue, particularly light blue, can produce chemicals in the body that are cooling, calming and can aid in intuition.

Medium to dark blues are considered corporate colours, and are associated with intelligence, stability, unity, and conservatism.

Reason 4: Blue Makes Visitors Feel You are a Dependable and Trustworthy Source

Example: The White House Website

The White House website is an excellent example of how darker blues can be combined to create a site that conveys authority and professionalism. A deep royal blue, indigo, or azure conveys richness and superiority, which is why you find these colours in so many corporate designs. Combining the dark blue with lighter blue accents and a white background, gives the site a clean, simple look which symbolizes knowledge, integrity, solemnity, and expertise.

Reason 5: Blue Represents What People Want in a Website

Blue is in fact the most used colour on websites. You will notice that communications, tech and web industry websites often use medium shades of blue combined with shades of grey to give the site a sleek, high-tech look. Blue is representative of all the things that work well to attract users to a website: creativity, progress, loyalty, communication, wisdom, fluidity, intelligence, stability, security, cleanliness, order, technology, harmony, depth, precision, ideas, sharing, cooperation, idealism.

Examples:

Reason 6: Blue Sells!

Research has shown that colour plays a significant role in whether a person is drawn to buy from your website. A 2005 Medialogue study showed readers recognize full-colour ads 26% more often than black and white ones.

Use of colour can greatly increase the effectiveness of an ad. A study carried out by the University of British Columbia in 2009 found that red is the most effective at getting our attention (hence why stop signs are red), while blue is best at boosting our ability for out-of-the-box, creative thinking.

The researchers then wanted to know how these findings related to advertising, specifically, the way colour impacts our receptivity to consumer packaging and advertising. They found that consumers responded positively to both but in specific contexts.

When the background colour was red and the ad featured specific product details that contained negative messages (ex. cavity prevention) people formed more favorable opinions about the product. When the ad featured more evocative, creative and positive messaging on a blue background (ex. tooth whitening), people were more receptive to the product.

Colour certainly influences what we read and what we buy, and using the colour blue in your site design will make your users feel safe about being creative and exploratory. (Tip: Studies indicate that visitors quickly lose interest in a website if it doesn’t load within 15 seconds. White backgrounds load quicker than dark colours (giving you an advantage over those slow loading websites).) Blue can be refreshing and friendly to strong and reliable and the shade of blue you select will impact how your designs are perceived.

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4 comments on “Feeling Blue? Why The Most Popular Websites Are Blue
  1. Frank Jovine says:

    I agree and my site – TechJaws.com also has a blue header. I have always liked blue/gray themes.

  2. Dave says:

    It may have something to do with the fact blue does not occur very often in living creatures, making it seem more advanced, think about how much you pay attention to and generally admire an animal with blue markings.

    Another possibility is that (on screen) blue can still be perceived as “dark” with a lot of saturation, whereas a colour like yellow appears bright despite even when the amount of light being projected is the same. Then on top of that, white-on-colour is easier on the eyes on a screen than black on white.

  3. Thank you, Mary – This was very interesting to me. In the yogic monastic order of which I’m a member we wear a royal blue habit during ceremonial occasions, and at least some blue in ordinary life. http://www.nayaswami.org.

    When I was in high school, our (very popular) math teacher, Mr. O’Malley, told us that he had supported himself in college by working at a millinery store (fabric/material store). On his first day, his boss said, “If a woman comes in the door not wearing any blue, don’t show her blue because she’ll never buy it. But if a woman comes in wearing ONLY blue, don’t show her anything else.” Apparently, there are “blue people.” This worried me a bit when the order was established – gosh, would our members be only bluesies? Turns out it’s a non-issue, but your article deepened my appreciation for the color I wear, darn near all the time. Thanks.

  4. Thank you, Mary – This was very interesting to me. In the yogic monastic order of which I’m a member we wear a royal blue habit during ceremonial occasions, and at least some blue in ordinary life. http://www.nayaswami.org.

    When I was in high school, our (very popular) math teacher, Mr.
    O’Malley, told us that he had supported himself in college by working at
    a millinery store (fabric/material store). On his first day, his boss
    said, “If a woman comes in the door not wearing any blue, don’t show her
    blue because she’ll never buy it. But if a woman comes in wearing ONLY
    blue, don’t show her anything else.” Apparently, there are “blue
    people.” This worried me a bit when the order was established – gosh,
    would our members be only bluesies? Turns out it’s a non-issue, but your
    article deepened my appreciation for the color I wear, darn near all
    the time. Thanks.

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