The user experience and psychology of color [FIXED]

One of my most favorite articles ever written about Clicky is this one, which might seem entertaining at first glance, because it's basically ripping us a new one for a design decision I made almost 7 years ago (pre-Clicky) and that I have stuck with ever since. What decision is that? That whenever I want my software to give you any kind of feedback, whether good or bad, that it will be displayed in SKULL-MELTING BOLD RED.

Now of course, I know that people associate red with bad. For example, "You totally forgot to fill out a field! Nice going!". But I make web sites for a living, and while I consider my attention to detail to be off the charts, I have caught myself missing "messages" all the time that random web site X is trying to share with me, because the message doesn't BURN MY RETINA.

So what about Joe Sixpack? How many of these "messages" is he missing? Considering my background, I would guess he misses a lot more of them than me. And since these tend to be "important" things, the fewer he sees of them, the more confused he's going to be. And what does confusion lead to? Tech support! Now don't get me wrong... of course I'm absolutely not saying anything negative about anyone who emails us for support. But, the fewer emails we get, the more time we get to spend writing code, which is the ultimate dream of any software business. That's where the fun is!

So that's been my philosophy. It may not be right, but I wanted you to know the reasoning behind it. As we continue to grow, however, the amount of "#UI #FAIL" tweets and emails we get has increased substantially, and it has started to bother me. But the real tipping point... yes, the real tipping point was today, when one of our new developers, Alexander, was playing with his local install of Clicky, and he did something that trigged a "success" message that subsequently melted his skull. He said, "Success messages are red?". I gave him the spiel. He understood, but he emphasized how much his mood was spoiled. He was truly upset that Clicky was essentially yelling at him while at the same time it was congratulating him for successfully filling out a form.

I felt bad. I almost let him go home early! But then I decided enough is enough... it was time to fix this. So I spent the last 4 hours or so doing just that. This is the result (screenshot below). And based on the comments in the article I linked above, I took the time to make it color-blind friendly (using blue instead of green for "good" messages). There are still some areas of our site where I use red to make something stand out, e.g. a specific sentence in the middle of a paragraph in our help documentation, but otherwise you should find Clicky a much friendlier companion.

15 comments |   May 18 2011 10:17pm

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