All Things Techie With Huge, Unstructured, Intuitive Leaps

The Psychology of UIX -- Background Colors for web pages

I get a newsletter from the Brain Lady -- a psychologist named Susan Weinschenk who has built an industry around the psychology of the human brain applied to web design.  I really applaud people who can build significant online revenue streams by leveraging their skills.  She is a speaker, obviously in demand because she has upcoming seminars all around the US and London.

One of the concerns that I have about the information that she promulgates is that she takes psychological studies on the human brain and preaches a 1:1 correlation between a literature review and web design without actually having tested it in real life.  For example, she in one article, she said that the human brain is more comfortable with less choices than more and menu items should optimally have between four and seven choices.  Yet when we wireframe some complex web apps, this is either impossible, or test subjects want more choices to do the tasks that they want and they want those menu choices to be highly explicit.

All this to say, is that the brain information is very interesting, but it all can't be applied uncritically to web design on a 1:1 basis.

Her latest newsletter had the following information about the color of backgrounds.

I came across some interesting research from Mehta and Zhu about red vs. blue background color for screens.

If you are using a negative or fear message it will be more impactful if you use the color red. If you are using a positive message then use blue.
If you want people to do a detail-oriented task use a red background. If you want them to be creative use a blue background.
If you are highlighting detailed features of a product your message will be more persuasive if you use a red background. If you are highlighting concepts of how to use the product then the message will be more persuasive with a blue background.
People prefer blue backgrounds over red, even though red might make them get a task done more quickly. They are not aware of the effects that the colors are having.

Ravi Mehta and Rui (Juliet) Zhu. Blue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances. Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, 2053 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Canada. / 5 February 2009 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1169144

I hope this helps and if someone uses this information, I would appreciate some feedback.  Thanks.

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