Today’s question comes from A.L. in Hartford, Connecticut.

Q: Do you consider color in your UX strategy and UI designs?

A: Always, because color affects UX in a very impactful way. Especially in UI design for digital products, for emotional, psychological and (often most importantly) physiological reasons. Refracted light from a screen — laptop, desktop, mobile device — is very hard on the eyes and in and of itself causes the eye muscles to fatigue faster. And when that occurs, the user experience (UX) diminishes quickly. Even if what’s being shown onscreen is extremely useful and valuable, physical fatigue will trump that value every time. People will leave earlier than intended and will be unlikely to come back.

So in situations where you have extended use, it’s incredibly important to use color schemes that don’t increase the vibration of the screen. When you have a lot of vibrant color everywhere, that increased contrast and vibration makes for fast fatigue. And when that happens people abandon what they’re doing. Or get agitated/frustrated without being able to explain why.

I still see situations in both B2B and B2C apps, sites and systems where there’s vibrant, saturated color all over the screen. Aside from the fatigue factor I mentioned, this also makes it extremely difficult for the brain to focus on any particular item — despite the user’s best efforts, the eye is reflexively pulled away from the item they’re focusing on hundreds — and sometimes thousands of times. This, again, results in poor outcomes: abandonment, mistakes, unintended actions.

And while this is an entirely separate topic, part of the problem often lies with the fact that responsibility for UX lies squarely in one of two places:

  1. With developers, who either don’t have adequate time or aren’t equipped to make those decisions, or
  2. With UX professionals who are purely on the scientific side of the fence, and have no visual design training.

In both scenarios color is typically little more than decoration. And decoration quickly becomes a liability, affecting adoption, use and all manner of ROI.

Bottom line: Color most definitely affects UX. Color is extremely, extremely important, and has a profound effect on the success or failure of what you’re designing. It is certainly a component that can make or break a user experience. And it all too often doesn’t get the time or attention it deserves in the design process.

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