UX Basics: Color, familiarity, and simplicity

UX Basics: Color, familiarity, and simplicity

Article by Lisa Truong

User Experience (UX) Basics: Color, Simplicity, and Familiarity

Today we scroll and click through a technological world consisting millions of websites and apps where information is at the end of our fingertips. The daily ins and outs of our lives have been integrated with the quick and easy access of information. How these webpages are designed and how the information is presented can impact how a user feels about what they’re looking at and even how they feel throughout the rest of their day when they’re off their devices.

There are three qualities of a webpage that can be used to create a certain feeling and a seamless experience when navigating the web.

  1. Color
  2. Simplicity
  3. Familiarity


The colors being used are an important factor when trying to convey a feeling, reach a certain goal, or cater to a certain audience. Colors can provoke certain emotions and expectations in the viewer. For example, the color blue is associated with trust and reliability. Many travel companies, such as Delta and Amtrak, use blue in their websites to convey the idea that they provide timely services to their customers.


Complementary color schemes create a feeling of excitement and can bring the users’ attention to a certain section of the app; such as a button or link you want them to click. An example of this would be a test performed by the website, HubSpot, in 2011 that presented two similar webpages with green color schemes. The only difference was the color of the buttons; one was green and the other was red. They hypothesized that the green button would get more clicks since it fit with the color scheme, but the results showed that the red button received 21% more clicks than the green one. The contrast of the red button against the green color scheme drew the attention of the users. Analogous colors create a sense of harmony and continuity. This would be useful for a meditation app that would want to give off a calm and relaxed vibe.


Quick and easy are what many of us look for in the applications and products we use on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. Compare a cluttered website to one with less text, images, and links. It would take us less time to navigate the simple webpage and less time to figure out what we’re looking at. The more steps we need to take, the more work our brains need to do and the more

likely we’ll lose interest in what we’re doing.

Novemsky (2007) presented products in easy or difficult-to-read fonts. People were twice as likely to purchase the product with the simple font than the complicated one. Humans find pleasure in easy to process things and the familiar, which goes into our next topic.


Our brains gravitate towards things that carry familiar characteristics. It’s easy to follow along with a layout that we’ve seen before, so it takes less work to soak in the information. A 2013 study by Jiaying Zhao, Naseem Al-Aidroos, and Nicholas Turk-Browne showed how regularity in a sequence attracts more attention. Participants were presented with a sequence of shapes appearing on four different locations on a computer screen. One of the sequences was predictable, the rest were random. After the sequences were presented, they were asked to identify letters that appeared at the four same locations where the sequences were. They identified the letter located where the predictable shape sequence were with the least time-delay.

So, when designing a webpage, having the login section at the usual top right corner and navigation buttons on either the top or left-hand side are methods to create an easy-to-follow webpage.

Outside the Screen

There’s more beneath the surface of what looks and feels good.  With all of these components working together to create a seamless experience, the goal is to have users spend less time and expend less cognitive energy, so they can use that energy on things when they’re offline.

A study from 1999 by Baba Shiv and Alex Fedorikhin put 165 participants into two groups. One group had to memorize two numbers; the other had to memorize seven. After reciting the digits, they were offered a choice between a bowl of fruit or chocolate cake. Participants who had to memorize seven numbers were nearly 50% more likely than the other group to choose the cake. This shows that cognitive processing drains our brains the way self-control and willpower does.

Based off of this, the amount of work your brain puts into navigating and digesting a website could effect how the rest of your day goes, whether it’d be staying on task to study for a test or sticking with a diet. So, it’s not just about taking up a user’s time while on the web, it’s about creating certain emotions and a pleasurable experience that can make life offline a little easier

Lisa Truong

Lisa Truong

Contributing Writer

Lisa Truong graduated from the University of Texas of Austin with degrees in Psychology and Human Development and Family Sciences, with a concentration in personal relationships. She has over a year of experience in the applied behavioral analysis field and currently works as a behavior therapist at The Behavior Exchange. She has experience working with children from 2 to 16 years of age in both clinical and in-home settings. She also has an interest in tech, visual design, and art since she was young. Since graduating, she has been trying to find opportunities to bridge behavioral sciences, technology, and visual aesthetics to create beautiful and easy-to-follow experiences.

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