The Psychology of Colour and App Design

3 min read
Aug 23, 2017

A lot goes into designing an app. One of your concerns is how to best market the app so it appeals to your ideal user. Although the adage warns us not to judge a book by its cover, the fact remains that first impressions can make or break someone’s decision to download or purchase your app. One factor that you need to consider when designing your app is the psychology of colour. Choosing the right colours can make the app more attractive to those most likely to use it, evoke feelings that will boost your odds of success, and even make your app easier to use.

It’s Not as Simple as You May Think

You’ve undoubtedly seen memes, posters and random posts on the internet that say things like, “yellow makes people feel happy” or “blue evokes feelings of calmness.” While this may be true for some people, the fact is, perceptions and experiences are stronger than simply what colour something happens to be. So choosing a yellow icon for your app is not going to automatically make users feel happier and more likely to click “install.”

… Or Is It?

That being said, there are some factors that are common to most people. For example, everyone is conditioned to stop at red and go at green. If you were to switch those colours in your app, making a red circle mean “go” and a green circle mean “stop,” people will be confused and the app will be difficult to use. 

There are also a few features that some colours tend to have almost universally. Red and orange are warm, dynamic colours. Blue and green are cooler, cleaner colours. Purple can signify royalty, white can stand for cleanliness and pastel pink is almost always seen as a feminine colour. Keeping these ideas in mind can help you choose a good colour scheme for your app.

Colour Theory

For a great grounding on colour theory, head over to Canva; their Design Wiki on Colours teaches you everything you need to know about colours, their meanings and the colour combinations that will hopefully give inspiration to your next design!

Considerations for Branding

The human eye sees and processes colour before just about anything else. Look at the image of the Coca-Cola can. You know with barely a glance that it’s regular Coke. Diet Coke has a different colour can, as does Coke Zero. If the can were green, your assumption would be that it was actually one of the lemon-lime sodas, such as Sprite or 7-Up, before you read the Coca-Cola script running down the side of the can.

When choosing colours for your app, be consistent. Your branding strategy should include keeping the same logos, fonts and, most of all, colours consistent for your product once you’ve made a final decision. Whether you’re designing the icon, the cover screen or a website to promote it, don’t switch up the colours used.

Making Your Choices

You might wonder whether the actual colours you choose really matter. They do, but it can be hard to determine which colours would work best for your particular target user. The best way to find out is to conduct some tests. Offer up your beta version in two different colour schemes and see which one does the best. Ask your social media followers to choose between two or three schemes in a poll. Be “that guy” and bring your tablet to family dinners and holiday get-togethers to quiz your relatives (focusing on the ones who are in the age and gender demographics that you’re hoping to reach).

You can also check out this Kissmetrics infographic, which details which colours are preferred by men (blue, green and black) and women (blue, green and purple), as well as what colours seem to be disliked by all (orange and brown).

In the end, you’ll need to choose the colours that speak to you and that your polled audience prefers. Just keep the colour consistent as a vital part of your branding, and you will see success build as your app logo becomes more recognisable.


Cola by cyclonebill is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike License

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