As individuals, we change our colors often. We reflect our inner palettes in what we wear, what we buy, where we cast our gaze. We have the freedom to engage unlimited combinations whenever we see fit.
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But what about the colors of the websites we visit daily? Do websites shift in these same ways, or even at this rate? Over the course of a year we change our color preferences untold times, but looking at how websites evolve over a similar time period indicates something quite different.
I recently examined a representative sample of websites that have gone through a significant redesign in the last year to analyze just how much, if at all, these websites changed in terms of their inner color palettes. These few examples represent a trend I noticed - that some websites have gone through massive shifts in layout, usability, and general structure. In comparing their palettes, however, you don't see such shifting.
In the example of target.com below, you can see that there has been an obvious overhaul of structure, reorganizing the site completely. While there is a subtle increase in a practical implementation of color 'coding' (notably pink to indicate a 'spring' item and brighter link colors), the base of the palette remains the same. This shows that Target knows the importance of evolving functionality (and product) independent of base branding colors.
Another great example of a structural overhaul is bankofamerica.com. Here you can see they've moved to a centered layout and are using a few brighter blues for specific calls to action, but again, the remainder of the palette remains unchanged.
Another website I took a look at was twitter.com, which went through somewhat of a transformation last year. Save for a button color change (for the better) the base of their palette and branding remains the same.
Of particular interest this past year were the transformations undertaken on dennys.com. Around July last year they went with an overhaul not just of structure but of color as well. I don’t think the color portion of the overhaul was that successful, as a look around six months later shows they've reversed their direction. They've gone closer to what they had previous to the saturated yellow look, dialing back to a more traditional food-friendly palette of light tans/browns and creamy whites. Did Denny’s find out how much is too much? Was bright yellow too much of a stretch from what is traditionally a red-dominated industry?
In the case of our recent Purple.us redesign, you can see that we’ve maintained the base of the palette, only adding a select aqua to draw emphasis to the site’s informational hierarchy. Again, you can see how important the core of a palette is to the site’s overall presentation.
It is important to understand that while sites adapt and alter in various ways and degrees, there are some decisions that must be absolutely correct in early stages of development, namely color. Color delineates brand. Color can define a site. Color resonates in the mind of the user, whether they notice or not. Color is vital. If a website requires modifications, initial color choice and primary concepts must be considered just as vital.