App Color Best Practices

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App Color 101

Color. It affects our mood, perception of things and even our app choices. It is almost second nature for some to categorize things according to colors among other characteristics. Some apps use colors to catch attention, define mood and character, and to convey an industry standard. It can’t be denied that color is at the forefront of app design.

To see how colors influence the design of apps, here are the common colors used in the icons of some of Apple App Store’s top apps:

Common App Icon Colors in the Apple App StoreSource :


According to an analysis conducted by Colin Eberhardt, majority of app screenshots favor shades of blue, orange and red. It’s quite surprising to note that some, if not most of the top apps don’t follow common app color conventions. For example, Eberhardt’s analysis showed that screenshots in the game category on average use mostly shades of red and orange with some shades of blue. Shades of green and purple used very sparingly, yet these two colors are among the top five used by the top apps of this category. The same can be said in the food category where the top apps used pink and shades of green, colors that aren’t quite popular in the category.


Though the analysis done by Brandisty only used the icons of the top five apps in each category and Eberhardt used 250,000 screenshots, it is quite interesting that apps that don’t follow the ‘color standards’ in their category still perform well. This could be because of other factors that affect the use of color in  apps. Some of these factors are:


Industry Appeal

Color has many facets and properties to explore. For example, the use of dark and light shades of a color creates a degree of contrast that may affect the visual appeal of the app. Categories like games, music and entertainment favor darker colors, thus a darker screen output. While categories like finance, education and weather favor lighter colors because there is a necessity to clearly convey information. Categories that use darker colors go for the impact of presentation with an emphasis on the visuals.


Muted tones also convey an air of credibility and seriousness. Apps in business-related categories are colored less vividly than apps in entertainment-related categories. This is based on a proven practice where a product can convey its function and mood with colors that are often attributed to its  industry.


The Entire Palette

It’s not just about a single app color. Some apps just use a single color range to create a feeling of familiarity that enhances the user experience. Other apps with much complex navigation designs (like productivity apps) use solid colors as navigation aids, defining each category and its subcategories easily. It is important to create palettes of color that are in harmony and in context with the app’s functionality and mood.


The Psychology of Colors

As mentioned earlier, color affects our app choices – well, almost all of our life choices. Color is a big factor in brand recognition. It is such that 84.7% of consumers consider color as the main reason for a purchase.

  • Yellow is full of warmth and stimulants that it attracts the eye to the product but makes babies cry for some reason.
  • Red excites and creates a sense of urgency; it basically shouts “Buy now!”
  • Blue makes you feel secure like you can trust this product with your life. It increases productivity but makes you lose your appetite though you feel calm and serene in the process.
  • Green is the color of abundance and makes you feel like you’re just out grazing on the grass, no worries at all. It’s also an eye-friendly color.
  • Orange is a persuasive color. It attracts your attention and then encourages you to take action. But it can also create a sense of caution (through association with other objects).
  • Pink is soft, with a hint of youthful infatuation and reminds you of a little girl’s bedroom.
  • Black creates the impression of luxury and no-nonsense approach.
  • Purple is an older pink, soothing and calming with a hint of sophistication that attracts the wise, experienced consumers especially those into anti-aging products.


Some tests also revealed that there are some colors that convert higher, triggering certain subconscious responses from users. For buttons that ask for call of action, colors like red and yellow have higher conversion rates compared to colors like green and blue.


Cultural Influences

Not all cultures define colors the same way. A positive color for some may induce negative emotions for some. For example in China, the color red is dominant even in the finance sector where blue is the global favorite. But in South Africa, the color red symbolizes mourning. Mexico’s national color is green but it is forbidden in some parts of Indonesia.


App color (or just icon color) is sometimes adjusted depending on the targeted market. This doesn’t sound practical in the long run. Some developers and companies choose the color blue instead. Blue is considered to be the safest color with only a few negative associations.

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