The Two Biggest Misconceptions about Colors & Conversion Optimization

Colors are controversial.

You probably didn’t think that in kindergarten. The use of colors in branding and conversion optimization are a significant marketing debate topic. And most of the debate revolves around the notion that particular colors not only evoke specific emotions in people, but translate into different feelings for different people.

Red “creates a sense of urgency” and “elicits excitement” in people’s unconscious mind — I’m sure you’ve heard that before. It’s impossible to assume that each person will interpret it that same way. There have been many attempts to attribute consumer responses to particular colors, but the truth is that color is entirely too dependent on context to be universally translated to specific feelings.

Misconception #1: Each Color Represents Specific Personality Traits and/or Emotions

We’ve all seen a variety of infographics that attempt to explain what each color means and how people translate them in their mind.

Yellow is warm. Blue is trust. Green is growth.

In an attempt to categorize colors and emotions, we’ve forgotten the most important factors: perception and personal experience. While you can’t universally tie human responses to individual colors, there are common messaging patterns to be found in color perception.

Brand logos and colors

TRUTH #1 — Colors do play a significant role in branding and purchases.

Did you know …

Researchers have found that 90% of snap judgments made about products are based on color and the perceived “appropriateness” of the color used.

Our brains are wired so that our decisions are determined by our experiences, perceptions, and preferences. It’s also been suggested that our brains prefer recognizable brands (duh, right?). If given the choice between Coca Cola and RC Cola, you’re likely to choose Coke — not necessarily because of the color each brand is associated with, but because Coca Cola is a more recognizable brand.

This, however, begs the question: Do colors associated with recognizable or trusted brands influence our color preferences anywhere else?

Misconception #2: There is a “Best” Color for Website Conversion Rates

Okay. Raise your hand if you’ve painstakingly tried to decide between making your call-to-action button red or green. Perhaps you went outside the box and tried orange?

Don’t worry. Nobody is looking. And we won’t tell.

If you’ve read any recent article or case study on the influence color exerts on conversions, you’ve most likely been led to believe that red should be your go-to button color. In many cases, red call-to-action buttons do perform better than green or orange.


Let’s consider HubSpot’s button color test. HubSpot chose to A/B test a green call-to-action button against a red one on one of their client’s websites:

Hubsoft Button Colors Test

They ran this test over a period of a few days in which 2,000 people visited the site, recording the button clicks. The result? The red button outperformed the green one by 21%, leading them to conclude that color does play a significant role in overall conversion optimization.

Let’s also consider RIPT Apparel’s color test. This is the original image:

RIPT Apparel Original

This is the new one with a green button:

RIPT Apparel Green Button

And this was an alternative version with a yellow button:

RIPT Apparel Yellow Button

To no one’s surprise, RIFT Apparel saw a 6.3% increase in sales as a result. Now, if you were to have read HubSpot’s case study, one would assume that if RIFT Apparel changed their buttons to red, they would have seen an even higher conversion rate. This isn’t necessarily true though.

TRUTH #2 — Color makes little difference on its own.

The color of a button has little to no effect on its own. What makes a particular color convert at a higher rate has more to do with the base and background colors of a website than the actual color itself. The problem with assigning red as this magical conversion trait that works best for any website is that it’s dependent on context.

If you were to look at Performable’s website, you’d notice that green was part of their base and background color scheme. Similarly, RIFT Apparel’s original button was black, which was also part of their base and background color scheme. If your call-to-action buttons are the same color as your base and background, chances are it’s going to get blurred into the background because your eye won’t know where to go.

Making your call-to-action buttons a contrasting color is what makes them successful.

Now, for My Final Thoughts

Colors matter — sometimes more than you’d think.

There are even times when one particular color converts better than others; however, saying that one color is the “best” for every website isn’t entirely accurate. What matters is looking at the big picture and answering one question: Does the important information stand out enough? If not, what can you do to improve it?

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