Designing Form Layout: Color

The following is a short extract from our book, Designing UX: Forms, written by Jessica Enders. It’s the ultimate guide to form design, a key part of effective UX design. SitePoint Premium members get access with their membership, or you can buy a copy in stores worldwide.

Currently, our form doesn’t have much color at all:

At this stage, the only color on the form is the logo and the red asterisks indicating questions that require an answer

At this stage, the only color on the form is the logo and the red asterisks indicating questions that require an answer.

In terms of this part of the design, we’re on the right track. I’ll explain why.

Often, using color in an attempt to make a form “fun” or “interesting” can actually make the user experience worse:

This very colorful form is more scary and confusing than fun

This very colorful form is more scary and confusing than fun.

Some colors can even hurt people:

The fluorescent colors in this form may be hard for some people to look at

The fluorescent colors in this form may be hard for some people to look at.

Be Very Careful with Color

Human beings are incredibly sensitive to color. Our brains process it without us even realizing, and we can’t help noticing differences.

In our forms, we can use this feature of human biology to our advantage. Reserve color for things that need it, so they stand out in some way.

Here are some parts of a form that may benefit from color:

Buttons:

The only color on this form is the background of the button

Key messages, like errors:

Error highlighted in red

Links:

The links Terms of Use and Privacy Policy are blue

Progress indicators:

Color helps differentiate past, current and future steps

Headings:

Color used to make headings stand out

Form backgrounds:

This form has a light blue background

Branding, like logos and standard headers, may also use color:

The red header is standard branding for Coles

You may have noticed that I didn’t include the red asterisk of required field indicators (*) in the list of things that may use color. This is because I don’t recommend the use of red asterisks to indicate required fields. See “Required Versus Optional Fields” below for more information.

Notice also how each of the examples above uses very little color overall. The more color you use, the less it succeeds in making things stand out:

This form uses color on almost every element, meaning none of them stand out” width=”1446″ height=”716″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-161085″ />

This form uses color on almost every element, meaning none of them stand out.

What Colors Should You Use?

Usually, your organization will have a palette of colors that you can refer to. Like my form design business, Enders Bank has a teal green as its main color, as you can see in the logo in the image below. Let’s use that color to make the primary action button on our form distinctive:

Our form now has all the color it needs

Our form now has all the color it needs.

Color Blindness

Estimates vary, but it’s likely that 4–10% of your web form’s users will have some deficiency in their ability to perceive color (typically—but inaccurately—called color blindness). The most common form of color blindness is red–green, where distinguishing between these two colors is difficult.

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Source: Sitepoint