Black or White – Which Background Color To Use

A majority of websites designs are based on either white or black backgrounds, and there is a simple reason for it: it works.  Black and white give excellent contrast to place the primary colors against, and they are pleasing and not distracting for the user.  Black or white backgrounds provide extra emphasis to negative space, an important concept in design, and they help provide an excellent base for the design and content.

However, choosing whether to use white or black is a bit more of a challenge.  Mood, tone, product, market demographics, competition and colors all will play an important role in choosing which color to choose.

Deciding on what color to use on your site will be one of the most important decisions you will make in designing your site. It will set the entire tone of your site. When deciding, take into consideration your product or service that you are selling or providing. Does the product dictate any color preferences? Then consider additional graphics that might have some impact on the decision of what color to use. You want things to pop and stand out so don’t choose a color that could interfere with your product, service or logo for your site. Of course you can change the colors on your logo but then there are larger concerns if you do that. Look at other sites as well; see what grabs your eye. Look at your competitors. Is it possible the industry you are entering has a certain tone that might prefer one color over the other? Do a bit of research.

Is one color more pleasing to the eye than the other?

One thing to keep in mind is will the visitors be staring at your site for an extended period of time? If so you should keep your site easy on the eyes. Don’t use vibrant colors that really strain the eye and choose color combinations that don’t compete or are too intense. Black is generally easier on your eyes but most sites do tend to use white. White tends to feel cleaner and of course it’s easier to use colors with. If you’re going to put a bit of text on the site people are obviously more used to black text on white. It will look a little odd to people in a subliminal way to see white text on a black screen, takes a little time to adjust. Some colored text will show up better on white as well. Again this all goes back to what you intend to fill the screen with. Choosing text color is one more thing you will have to decide on.

If I don’t like it I can just change it right?

Of course you can always change up your site. If you don’t like something just swap it out. If people make complaints or suggestions it would definitely be wise to listen to them. It’s not at all uncommon for people to do this as well. There are however some risks to this. When you launch your site that is what people will immediately associate with your product or service. They will get use to it very quickly. If you decide to do something as drastic as changing your background, which ultimately leads to having to change font color at the very minimum, then you will almost have to announce a new “re-launch” of your site. You should also not go into it with the thought that you can just swap it up if you don’t like it. Go into it with the thought that you will maintain this look and feel of your site for some time. Sites do obviously need to be changed or updated periodically and depending on the site it may require it to get a whole new face lift from time to time but that is a bit different from changing your mind on the background color. If you are unsure then white may be the best option. White is easy to use and is not as challenging to use as a color as black since it’s easy to add graphics to.

Examples of Poor Color Selection and Poor Use of Negative Space

Bad Use of Black Background and Negative Space

Bad Use of White Background and Negative Space

Examples of Good Color Selection and Good Use of Negative Space

Good Use of Black Background and Negative Space

Good Use of White Background and Negative Space

Comments 4 Responses

  1. Colin Perini April 26, 2010
    • Wiehan Britz November 9, 2010
  2. mamba May 19, 2013

Leave a Comment!