Recently I did a project where I was given the task of coming up with a color scheme and when I was dialing in the colors I was given a basic color. I had to let them know that saying “blue”, is too general of a term in regards to web and that I would have to get back to them on choosing their “blue”. The reason this is significant is because color can be seen differently based on a variety of reasons.
Reasons Colors are seen different
The first, is how the color was chosen. Was it using a value of CYMK (this is most commonly used in print) RGB or hex values, or did they simply pick a Pantone color that we now have to translate it to fit web. The most common way that color is added in the web is by Hex or RGB(red,green,blue). Hex color values are a six digits that may or may not be a combination of letters and numbers.
Second, how we see colors represented on the web is different based on where you are viewing the color. Example Red will look different based on what monitors brands, phones, tablets, and you are viewing from. Then it depends even further on how bright or dim you set that devices backlight.
Lastly, it depends on you. If you are colorblind, or for whatever reason don’t see hues and shades easily how you are seeing a color will effect your perception.
Illustration of Color
One of the best examples of seeing color different goes to that infamous blue/black, white/gold dress. We perceive and process color differently. The dress even though its been years was a great example of everyone seeing the same thing differently. What is came down to in the end was the dress was taken in poor lighting and it showed that not everyone perceives light in the same way. The same thing is true for websites and color.
To help illustrate the point I am adding a block of colors that would be all considered red. Depending on where you view this image you may see them almost all alike or you might be able to see the contrast. I chose to pick the colors using RGB.
As you can see they are all red but really are not all the same. You may feel more drawn to one than the other. You may actually find some of them not to be what you consider red. You may even really have a distaste for some of them.
Working with the Color Wheel
This is why when we are working with someone for the first time we like to send them options of the colors during the design phase and review it with them. It is not that I can’t give you the color you want, it is that I am not going to view the color the same way. This is why feedback is important when we are not seeing the color wheel the same. As a designer and web developer I am using different tools, browsers, and screens than what you are going to use. So you may think I sent you something dull or not the correct color, but for me it will be brilliant and the color you want. It is also why you can’t say broad terms for color like school bus yellow, or red like a rose because even those items are different based on where we live and how we view those colors.
When you start a web project and it includes design these things may seem like a waste, especially when you are anxious to get started. But there is value in working with your designer in making these choices, because the way you are looking at the color can actually make you love a site or be repulsed by it. If you have colors you are not fond of you may find a reason to nitpick the rest of your site because you are unhappy with the choices.
As a web designer I find value in going through the process with our clients when they have me working on projects. I also really want the opinion of the client or their customers to ensure that I deliver a quality product.