Choosing the Right Colors for Effective Emails and Landing Pages

Color is powerful – it can communicate emotion, draw attention, set a mood, and make a statement. It can also make your email stand out from the crowd.  But even more importantly, the right combination of colors can make sure your online marketing campaigns are accessible and readable to all types of audiences. Let’s take a look at the different ways color can get your message across and examine some best practices and online tools for visual accessibility.

Color boxSetting the Mood

Colors are a great for evoking an overall feeling in your emails and landing pages. According to The Logo Company, the following traits are generally associated with each color:

  • Red: Excitement, energy, boldness, romance
  • Green: Peace, growth, health, natural
  • Blue: Trust, dependability, strength, calm
  • Orange: Friendly, cheerful confidence, creativity
  • Black: Strength, power, precision
  • White: Clean, simple, easy

Of course, the implications of color can change over time – until the 1940s, little boys wore pink, not girls. The implications can also shift as you travel around the world. If you’re marketing to a global audience, you’ll want to keep in mind that the same color may have different meanings to different audiences. For example, purple is the color of privilege and wealth in Japan, but in Brazil, it’s often the color of mourning. In China, red can connote good luck and happiness; in other cultures it can imply war, danger, or desire.

Combining Colors

In email and web design, color also plays an important role in guiding the reader to important messages and calls to action. Too many colors can be distracting. Too few colors can make your message confusing or less interesting. Color can set the entire hierarchy of a message. When something (like a button) is brightly colored and stands out against the background, your eye is automatically drawn to it first.

This email makes a festive statement without getting gaudy. The landing page matches up with the overall design and color scheme of the email, too.

Notice something else about the colors in this matching email and landing page? The colors are fairly complementary. That means they live on opposite sides of the color wheel. When you want to find two colors that will look good together (and stand out against each other) complementary colors are a great place to start. In this example, they’ve also used the more vibrant red as the call to action (CTA) button.

The combination of three adjacent colors on the color wheel is known as an analogous color scheme. Yellow, yellow-green and green often look good together, as do red, red-orange and orange. You can also use a monochromatic color scheme, like combining black with shades of grey or red with pinks. Just make sure there’s plenty of contrast, so any text on a colored background is completely legible.

Keeping it Readable

When it comes to choosing the right colors for effective emails, it’s important to remember that people with visual impairment may have difficulty navigating your design. Color Universal Design (CUD) is a design system originally developed in Japan that was intended to help designers take into consideration people with various types of color vision. The core principles of Color Universal Design are:

  • Choose color schemes that can be easily identified by people with all types of color vision, in consideration with the actual lighting conditions and usage environment.
  • Use not only different colors but also a combination of different shapes, positions, line types and coloring patterns to convey information in multiple ways to all users including those who cannot distinguish differences in color.
  • Clearly state color names where users are expected to use color names in communication.
  • Aim for visually friendly and beautiful designs.

Some form of color blindness affects approximately eight percent of men and one percent of women, which means using high-contrast elements is always a good idea. Adobe Photoshop supports CUD with its soft-proofing features – they help designers see what an image might look like for people with different types of color blindness.

You can also use an online tool like the color blindness simulator to see what a graphic will look like to someone who is color blind.

Here’s how the Act-On logo translates for three major types of vision impairment.

Protanopia logo
Protanopia: The inability to see the color red or to distinguish it from green or bluish-green.

Deuteranopia logo
Deuteranopia: The inability to see the color green or to distinguish it from red.

Tritanopia: The inability to tell blue from yellow, blue from green, and yellow from violet.

Use a tool like the accessibility color wheel to test your choice of a color pair (for example, text against a background). It can help you understand how the combination appears to different types of color blindness as well how the brightness and contrast compare to the standards defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). You’ll find more guidelines and resources to help make the Internet accessible to people with disabilities on the W3C site.

Reflecting Your Brand

When designing email messages and landing pages, it’s also important to continually reinforce your brand. Keep your overall branding color palette in mind, and if you vary from your traditional look and feel, do it in a way that’s still recognizable to your audience. The colors and design elements you use in your email campaigns don’t have to match or mirror your brand exactly, but they should reflect your overall style and tone. This kind of consistency helps build confidence in the minds of your readers.

Oh, Canada. You stand out in a crowd.

For example, in creating an email and landing page for an Act-On webinar about Canada’s new anti-spam legislation, it would have been very tempting to incorporate the Canadian flag into the design. After all, red is a powerful color, and nothing says Canada quite like the scarlet maple leaf.

But instead, we used colors and design elements that reinforced our brand identity in the email, and we carried them over to the landing page as well. That way, our readers could rest assured this wasn’t some kind of spam message in and of itself.

But the most important color consideration of all is this: What works for your audience? Have you tested a variety of different color combinations in your email campaigns? Have you tried out different button color options? Have you run A/B tests of your landing pages? Testing is the best way to discover what resonates with your customers and prospects – and the results will speak for themselves.

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