The Color Of Your Website Has A Huge Impact On What People Buy

Most entrepreneurs think about the color of their site in terms of how colors look together and whether they’re generally appealing, but color actually has a lot more to do with what your visitors think about your site – and the actions they take – than you might realize.

There have been entire books written about the psychology of color in buying habits. It’s a topic that has been well studied, and most marketing degrees include at least some study of this topic. We don’t want to bore you with psychology talk though. So here are the basics of what various colors mean, who they appeal to, and who should use them.

First, a Few Stats

Some of these statistics have to do with the color of individual products, but they demonstrate very clearly the power color has in the minds of consumers. According to a recent KISSMetrics report:

  • 93% of consumers place color and appearance above other factors when making a buying decision.
  • 85% of shoppers state color as the primary factor in their decision to buy a product.
  • Brand recognition, which links directly to consumer confidence, is increased by 80% when the right colors are used.

What Does it Mean?

It’s important to know what specific colors mean to people. It’s been shown that certain colors invoke specific feelings in most people, so let’s see what colors really mean.

Yellow: Youthful and optimistic. Use it to grab attention. Usually not good as a background or primary site color.

Red: Energy. Creates urgency and increases heart rate. Good for appealing to impulse shoppers.

Blue: Creates feelings of trust and security. This is why many banks use it in their logos or marketing. Navy or dark blue  is used to market to the budget-conscious.

Green: Gives the impression of wealth. Relaxing and easy-going. Teal can be used to appeal to people on a budget.

Orange: Aggressive and excitement. Good for calls to action and impulse buying.

Pink: Feminine and romantic. Used to market to women and girls and traditional buyers.

Black: Powerful and sleek. Use it to market luxury products and appeal to impulse buyers.\

Purple: Soothing and calming. Often used to market anti-aging products.

Part of the study mentioned above found that what your site visitors see when they come to your site, from overall design to the colors used, really does make an impact on whether they buy from you. In fact, 52% of people surveyed who said they would not return to a site stated the reason as ‘aesthetics.’ If there was ever any question, that should confirm that the look of your site is one of the most important parts of your business.

Project Cascade: Tracking Content From Inception Thru Dissemination

Cascade allows for precise analysis of the structures which underly sharing activity on the web.

This first-of-its-kind tool links browsing behavior on a site to sharing activity to construct a detailed picture of how information propagates through the social media space. While initially applied to New York Times stories and information, the tool and its underlying logic may be applied to any publisher or brand interested in understanding how its messages are shared.


This is absolutely fascinating, and shines a little light on the social loopholes in the NYTimes paywall.

On Art & Science in Web Cartography

Question: Have the roles that art and science play in the creation of cartographic products shifted in recent years and over new media types?

In many ways, this is a silly debate that is predicated on a number of problematically subjective concepts. First among these concepts is a set of perceived definitions of broad terms. “Art”, for example, is a vague word, referring to anything from evil magic (Dark Arts) and military strategy (The Art of War) to food preparation (Culinary Arts) and walking while playing a saxophone (Marching Arts). “Science” is similarly difficult to pin down, and indeed can be taken to mean the same thing as “Art”. (OED definition I1 for Art: “Skill in doing something, esp. as the result of knowledge or practice.” OED definition 2b for Science: “Trained Skill.”) When considering pursuits in “computer science” and “web cartography” with respect to “art” and “science,” the definitions blur even more. After all, web cartography cannot exist without the science behind the web, right? And what on earth does “web cartography” really mean?

To clear up my opinions on this debate, I offer the following (admittedly idiosyncratic) definitions, each defined solely in the context of the field of cartography.

Art. The human element of cartographic production. Art enables the creation of maps with a personal, emotional, unique and (to varying degrees) unpredictable lens on the world. The implementation of art in cartographic production results directly in the subjective aesthetic appeal of the resulting image—and, by extension, the viewer’s impressions of the space it depicts. While artistic application in cartographic production may rely on some level of repetition or iteration, it does not blindly rely on templates or presets. “Artistic” maps may be influenced by “fine art” (which is increasingly conflated with and/or compressed into the technology-driven field of 20th century graphic design). Examples of maps that are likely to be influenced by art include one-off manuscript maps, cognitive and mental maps, psychogeographical maps, maps of emotional landscapes, &c.

Science. The mechanical element in cartographic production. Science enables the mass production of maps in all non-handmade media. Science in cartography refers to the technology behind the pen a cartographer uses, as well as his software, hardware and all of the formulas and algorithms that reside therein. Science drives the modern notion of “push-button cartography”. Humans cannot draw or walk in a straight line; the science in cartography “fixes” this (through simplification and generalization algorithms) and gives us the impression that we can and have walked routes straight as a (carbon-fiber) arrow. Examples of maps with high potential to be influenced by science include classed choropleth maps, maps based on remotely sensed data, maps of algorithmically interpolated data, &c.

Web Cartography. Any spatial representation existing on—and intended in some way for—the Web. The largest subset of maps which this definition excludes can be found in digital archives of analog maps, as they were not originally intended for the Web. Web cartography runs the gamut from custom and canned locator maps (and bizarre combinations thereof) to mapping platforms offered up by multi-billion dollar corporations and federal agency geoportals. While the concept of web cartography is often accompanied by images of animated and interactive maps, these are but a subset of all maps served up in this medium.

Spark. This debate (at least recently and insularly) was sparked by my somewhat pessimistic view of art and science as they relate to web cartography. I illustrated this view in a series of deliberately cryptic paper-bag style Venn diagrams, which I posted yesterday. My intention when creating these images was to offer a visual editorial on the way science (or, really, digital technology) has boxed out the ability for would-be cartographers to be truly artistic in the process of map-making for the web. The first diagram showed “hacks” overlapping with “science” and left “art” next to (but not overlapping) either; thus implying that “art” is still in the room, but slightly out of reach. To give this diagram a bit of context, I created another, where I showed the location of manuscript, print and web cartography on sets of two overlapping spheres of “art” and “science”. In this series, manuscript cartography resides near the center of “art” and on the edge of “science”; print cartography includes equal parts of “art” and “science”; and web cartography resides near the heart of “science” and on the edge of “art”. To clarify this standpoint for Venn-diagram-purists, I created a third version, where a circle of “cartography” is added to the mix.

After creating these diagrams and sorting through some much-appreciated feedback, I created yet another Venn diagram (above). In this version, it is not the influence of art or science on cartography that is changing; it is the natures of art, science and cartography that change from medium to medium. I have also removed the thick lines that bounded these three concepts, hinting at the lack of concrete definitions for each.

Before you dismiss this as a cop-out, consider the following: this entire debate is predicated on the assumption that cartography (in some form and at some time) was located at the intersection of art and science. But no matter what form or in what era, this assertion is problematic because there may be no such singular place. If it does exist, what does this intersection of art and science look like? Is it a fork in the road? Is there a blinking yellow light (White 2011)? To base a debate on a place and space that may or may not exist, and that is somewhat difficult to imagine (at least for me), makes the entire debate–if you’ll pardon the euphemism—pointlessly academic.

Opinion. I suggest that if we can agree that cartography existed at an intersection of art and science at some point, it may well still be “there” (or at least in the neighborhood). What has changed are the ways in which art and science are being employed in the creation of cartographic products. Therein lies the source of my frustration. As I mentioned in a reply to Daniel Huffman’s comments on the original Venn diagrams, it is clear that “artistic decisions” can be made quite easily while creating a map for the Web. (How much should I generalize this line? What colors should I use for this polygon? What typeface should I use for these water features?) But in other forms of cartography, the actions that follow these decisions are also artistic—hand v. algorithmic generalization, personal v. “brewed” color choices, hand-lettering v. selecting a preset font. In web cartography, the process is often complete when the initial decision is made.

Not to put too fine a point on it, in closing, I offer a final comparison. Imagine for a moment the analog art of painting a line. The paint colors are determined by the ingredients the artist mixed, the width of the line is relative to the artist’s brush and the amount of pressure exerted upon it, and the route the line takes is an artistic representation of a cognized concept of “line” (which, as mentioned above, will certainly not be perfectly straight). In the digital version of this scenario, the process of drawing a line has been distilled to a set of decisions based on software presets (digital brush, stroke weight, color, transparency, &c.), all accomplished with the click of a mouse. The choices made within these presets can certainly be “artistic”, but we have to admit that some of the “art” that was fundamental in the first scenario is unattainable in the second.

If the science behind the software we use makes these artistic choices possible, is the implementation of the choices more science than art? This is a difficult question to answer, and in the end, it may not be worth answering. Because ultimately, I believe that the intersections (as well as extent and influence) between of art, science and cartography are constantly changing. Perhaps the GeoWeb and new design tools will allow web cartography to move forward in increasingly artistic and personal ways. Or perhaps, we can bring more art back into the mix by refuting black-box, whizzbang tools and returning to manual techniques. Either way, I am not claiming that the art in cartography is “dead” (I’m not that inflammatory, nor do I believe it to be true). I am simply voicing my frustration with the amount of science masquerading as art in cartography.

Call. There it is, my opinion on the state of art in web cartography. And it is only that: an opinion. So, I call on anyone who happens to read this who has an opinion on the matter to write a response. If you have a blog, post it up. Or feel free to submit a comment to this post. Either way, I would love to hear from everyone who has thoughts on this. Heck, make your own Venn diagram or some other visualization.

When the Data Struts Its Stuff


IN an uncharted world of boundless data, information designers are our new navigators., by Stamen Design, shows airline passengers detailed visualizations of the ground below them.

In a Stamen graphic of Twitter traffic during an MTV awards show, the number of tweets about celebrities was reflected in the size of their photos.

They are computer scientists, statisticians, graphic designers, producers and cartographers who map entire oceans of data and turn them into innovative visual displays, like rich graphs and charts, that help both companies and consumers cut through the clutter. These gurus of visual analytics are making interactive data synonymous with attractive data.

“Statistics,” says Dr. Hans Rosling, a professor of international health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, “is now the sexiest subject around.”

Dr. Rosling is a founder of Gapminder, a nonprofit group based in Stockholm that works to educate the public about disparities in health and wealth around the world — by offering animated interactive statistics online that help visitors spot trends on their own.

Hit the play button and an animated graphic, called Gapminder World, shows a constellation of brightly colored bubbles, each representing a different country, bouncing along over two centuries. Without ever having to view yawn-inducing numbers on gross domestic product per capita, you can watch some countries, like the United States, rapidly growing healthier and wealthier before your eyes while smaller bubbles, for countries like Congo, rise on the life expectancy axis even as they dip on the income line.

The advanced animation has let Dr. Rosling make wonky statistics about poverty as intuitive and potentially fascinating for viewers as a nature program about the Serengeti on TV. “If we show a herd of zebras, and one zebra has a bad leg and lags behind, you can see that immediately,” says Dr. Rosling, whose video clip from the BBC on health and wealth statistics has been viewed more than four million times on YouTube. “If one country gets left behind, you can see that, too.”

Visual analytics play off the idea that the brain is more attracted to and able to process dynamic images than long lists of numbers. But the goal of information visualization is not simply to represent millions of bits of data as illustrations. It is to prompt visceral comprehension, moments of insight that make viewers want to learn more.

“The purpose of visualization,” says Ben Shneiderman, founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland, “is insight, not pictures.”

The growing field has implications for companies, governments, academic institutions, nonprofit groups, news organizations and marketers — just about anybody who tries to convey huge amounts of information in visual, interactive forms. But advances, he says, come with both benefits and risks.

On the benefit side, people become more engaged when they can filter information that is presented visually and make discoveries on their own.

On the risk side, Professor Shneiderman says, tools as powerful as visualizations have the potential to mislead or confuse consumers. And privacy implications arise, he says, as increasing amounts of personal, housing, medical and financial data become widely accessible, searchable and viewable.

“The visual analytics research community works on these issues,” he says, “but more needs to be done.”

In the 1990s, Professor Shneiderman developed tree mapping, which uses interlocking rectangles to represent complicated data sets. The rectangles are sized and colored to convey different kinds of information, like revenue or geographic region, says Jim Bartoo, the chief executive of the Hive Group, a software company that uses tree mapping to help companies and government agencies monitor operational data. When executives or plant managers see the nested rectangles grouped together, he adds, they should be able to immediately spot anomalies or trends.

In one tree-map visualization of a sales department on the Hive Group site, red tiles represent underperforming sales representatives while green tiles represent people who exceeded their sales quotas. So it’s easy to identify the best sales rep in the company: the biggest green tile. But viewers can also reorganize the display — by region, say, or by sales manager — to see whether patterns exist that explain why some employees are falling behind.

“It’s the ability of the human brain to pick out size and color” that makes tree mapping so intuitive, Mr. Bartoo says. Information visualization, he adds, “suddenly starts answering questions that you didn’t know you had.”

For entertainment value, the Hive Group has also posted a tree map of the 100 most popular songs on iTunes, updated every 24 hours.

The fact that serious software companies are now tree mapping the pop charts is a sign that data visualization is no longer just a useful tool for researchers and corporations. It’s also an entertainment and marketing vehicle.

In 2009, for example, Stamen Design, a technology and design studio in San Francisco, created a live visualization of Twitter traffic during the MTV Video Music awards. In the animated graphic, floating bubbles, each displaying a photograph of a celebrity, expanded or contracted depending on the volume of Twitter activity about each star. The project provided a visceral way for viewers to understand which celebrities dominated Twitter talk in real time, says Eric Rodenbeck, the founder and creative director of Stamen Design.

Information visualization has changed substantially in the 10 years since the studio has been in business, Mr. Rodenbeck says. Designers once created visual representations of data that would steer viewers to information that seemed the most important or newsworthy, he says; now they create visualizations that contain attractive overview images and then let users direct their own interactive experience — wherever it may take them.

“It’s not about leading with a certain view anymore,” he says. “It’s about delivering the view that gets the most participation and engagement.”


TO that end, the company has just designed a site for a client,, that shows airline passengers a detailed satellite map of the landscape they are flying over — and lets them direct the view.

For passengers with Wi-Fi access who enter their airline and flight number on the site, displays more than just the terrain below. It also offers information bubbles highlighting different place names, local landmarks and tourist attractions like schools and botanical gardens, and photos of native fauna, like a blue jay.

On the ground, we may live in a world of T.M.I. — too much information. But Stamen Design is betting that we will relish rich images of ground data when we are flying several miles high.