The Psychology Of App Design

Happy People Using Smartphones

20 Oct 2022

Joe Butler

Colour is arguably the second most important aspect of your app, after functionality. The human-to-computer interaction is heavily based on interacting with graphical UI elements, and colour plays a critical role in this interaction.

Did you know the colour palette of an app, be it a mobile app or web app, can affect how users feel and the behaviour they exhibit whilst using the app?

When it comes to colours, the human mind links different colours to different emotions and reactions. The same goes for app designs and colours. Users may not realise the impact of colours that take place with every app they use, but it still affects them.  Knowing how to use the right colour is essential not only for aesthetic purposes but also for improving User Experience (UX).

We are here to talk about how different colours affect users in certain ways – and how UI can use these theories to design an impactful app. To learn more about how to use colours in the best possible way in UI designing practices for an app, keep reading.

What is Colour Psychology?

Colour psychology is the study of how colours affect our emotions and behaviour. It is a key theory in the design world. Different colours evoke different feelings in people, especially when used within apps. For example, Red is often associated with excitement, danger and love. While the colour blue is associated with relaxation, loyalty and trust.

Colour Choice

Although we don’t think there is anything completely wrong with picking a colour based on the reason that…. you simply like it. But we do believe more often than not, it is important to have a reason for using specific colours as it can be a powerful choice and have an impact not only on visual aesthetics but also on evoking particular emotions and even influencing decisions that your customers make.

For example, HubSpot found an interesting discovery when experimenting with different button colours for conversion rate. They A/B tested both green and red, with an intuition that green would perform better due to its correlation with ‘go’ and forward movement such as with traffic lights. However, to their surprise, the red outperformed the green button by 21%! This is proof that colour can markedly influence a user.

When choosing the colour palette for your apps, it is important to consider what feeling you want your users to experience and what behaviour you want them to exhibit. Do you want your app to be calming and relaxing? Or do you want it to be exciting and energising? Once you have decided on the feeling you want to create, you can choose colours to evoke this feeling.

These colours represent the following moods:

  • Red – Buoyancy, youth, determination, energy and influence.
  • Orange – Welcoming, optimistic, creative, warm, and lively.
  • Yellow – Joy, cheerfulness, and affection.
  • Green – Tranquillity, nature, growth and well-being.
  • Blue – Confidence, calm, refuge, and steadiness.
  • Purple – Luxurious, royal, imaginative, and wise.
  • Pink – Sensitive, caring, emotional and loving.
  • Black – Dependable, sophisticated, and knowledgeable.
  • White – Effortless, peaceful, innocent and clean.

Having this sort of information, you can choose the best colour palette that fits the purposes of your app and the emotion you want it to generate in people’s minds.

Cultural Differences

It is also wise to consider the different meanings of colours in various cultures. For example, the colour white is often associated with purity and innocence in Western cultures. However, in Eastern cultures, the colour white is often associated with death and mourning.

When choosing colours for your app, make sure to consider the different cultural associations of colours for your user. This will help ensure that your app is designed in a culturally appropriate way.


When using colour in your app design, it is also important to consider the amount of contrast between the foreground and background colours. Too much contrast can be overwhelming for users and make it difficult to read text. Conversely, too little contrast can make text appear washed out and difficult to read. Finding the right balance of contrast is important for creating an app that is easy to use and navigate for every single user.

When it comes to accessibility, your app design should also consider users who are colourblind. Approximately 8% of men and about 0.5% of women are colourblind. So, some users will experience these difficulties. When designing your app, consider using a colour palette that will be accessible to all users, regardless of their level of colour vision.

Resources such as WebAIM and Plugins such as Contrast are available free of charge to allow you to make sure your designs adhere to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) requirements.

Colour Motivation

A successful app design should motivate the user to achieve some objective and is a key psychology principle. Colour is one of the primary ways that designers can accomplish this. Colour plays a huge part in the branding and personification of your brand and mobile app.

Creating a hierarchy with colour is a way to indicate to a user the relative importance of various elements on the screen. It is a fundamental principle when it comes to affecting user behaviour. Making certain elements stand out using bold colours and keeping other elements in lighter or more muted colours will help guide the user’s attention.

Top Tips

  1. Choose a colour scheme that reflects the personality of your app and your brand. Make sure your designer understands what your company and app are all about. This is the quickest way to get a user to understand and resonate with your product.
  2. Your app’s colour scheme should be in line with its overall tone and message. If your app is fun and light-hearted, then you might want to use bright, cheerful colours. If your app is more serious, or business-focused, then you might want to consider using a more muted colour palette.
  3. Think about colours that are most associated with your app’s genre, industry, or target market. For example, if you are designing an eCommerce app for a luxury fashion brand, then you might want to use a glamourous colour scheme such as black, white and gold.
  4. Consider the different meanings of colour in different cultures. As mentioned before, the colour white can have very different associations in Eastern and Western cultures. Make sure to choose colours that will be appropriate for your app’s global audience and won’t offend the user.
  5. Pay attention to the level of contrast between foreground and background colours. Too much or too little contrast can make text difficult to read for your users and raise accessibility issues.


As you can see, there are in fact many things to consider when it comes to the psychology of colour within app design. By taking the time to think about the emotions you want to elicit from your users and the behaviour a user might demonstrate, you can create a successful and engaging app. So, what do you think about using colour psychology in app design?

Need help with your next app design project? Contact us today to speak to one of our experts today!

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