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We are in the process of branding our start up. Our target customers are technology shops around the world. Thus we want our logo and website's look and feel to be appealing to techies and geeks (Not that these are the only kind of people who would be vising our website, so it should be acceptable to general people as well). Are there any tips or conclusions based on studies when it comes to designing graphics/websites for this purpose? Like colors, layouts, words that techies like or don't like.

Being a techie myself, I personally like Black, Grey, Orange and Red. These are the same colors used in stackoverflow. So this gets me thinking if most techies would dig these kinds of colors. Moreover, almost all corporate websites tend to have the colors blue, white and green. Is there something about these colors that appeals to corporates? I am not a guru when it comes to design and user interface so I want your opinion on this. This would really help us while doing the branding for our shop.

EDIT

The purpose of the website is to engage with leading software shops as their technology partners and core team extensions. The website is also targeted at attracting talent (Software developers).

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"words that techies like or don't like." Techies hate the word 'Techie' –  DA01 Dec 14 '10 at 20:21
    
@DA01 - Agree completely –  Charles Boyung Dec 14 '10 at 21:41
    
@DA01 May be but thats not helping. –  Chirantan Dec 15 '10 at 3:56
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you are going to get a lot better responses from people if you don't refer to them in terms that they find derogatory. I sure think that would help you out. –  Charles Boyung Dec 16 '10 at 14:01
    
If I already knew what not to refer them as, I wouldn't be asking this question in the first place. Why can't you see what I'm trying to ask and answer it if you know it instead of commenting something that isn't going to help anybody? –  Chirantan Dec 16 '10 at 17:23
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3 Answers 3

A specific color or set of colors isn't as important as having color harmony. According to color theory this is achieved through having a mix of colors, that if combined, would look close to a medium grey. It is considered one of the most pleasing colors.

There are a number of reasons why organizations use similar colors, here are just a few:

  1. A desire to be associated with another brand or industry
  2. Technical and financial limitations of using custom colors across different media.
  3. A general fear of appearing different/original/standing out from the crowd.
  4. A lack of imagination.

More importantly there's a fairly well known process for creating a brand. Look into books from Alina Wheeler.

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"According to color theory this is achieved through having a mix of colors, that if combined, would look close to a medium grey" -> citation for that? T –  DA01 Dec 14 '10 at 20:24
    
Sorry, can't find one. –  Tucker Dec 14 '10 at 23:29
    
I'm a little suspect of that concept but maybe there's some validity to it. –  DA01 Dec 15 '10 at 19:24
    
Understandable. I would be too without a specific citation. It's more a paraphrasing of what I've learned from design and photography classes regarding the use of color and how to properly use color within a composition. However, it's not too dissimilar in concept to the notion that symmetry equates to beauty. Which, if you search for concepts of beauty or studies of beauty you'll find all kinds of interesting things to back it up. –  Tucker Dec 16 '10 at 16:55
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I would be wary of stereotyping your audience, particularly in terms of something as personal as colour choice! :)

You haven't given the exact purpose of your start up, so I'm unclear as to whether the aim of the site is to provide an immediate service (e.g. you're selling stuff) or to act as a shop window for your brand/company. In the former case, I would suggest that keeping things minimal will be appreciated by your audience who might have a very strong sense of objective and just want to complete it as soon as possible. Thus, a stack overflow type of look could be very appropriate.

If you're selling yourselves as a brand, however, you might like to take an approach typical of many of the modern web design / web standards sites: clean, simple, but with creative use of graphics and extra CSS3/HTML5 bells and whistles which your audience are likely to benefit from. Some examples that I particularly like are:

BTW, A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web (Mark Boulton) has a great section on colour and its application on the web.

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+1, specifically for the warning about stereotyping and personal preferences. –  Marjan Venema Dec 14 '10 at 6:59
    
How else should we agree upon the colors and graphics? Currently, we are taking a poll to seek opinion of everyone in the organization. But we are small team of 9 currently. My concern is the exactly same actually. If we decide based on our personal preferences, that does not mean the design we like the most is universally appealing. My question is really around the studies in this field and certain conclusions experts have come to when it comes deciding what kind of colors/designs/graphics are appealing to certain set of people... –  Chirantan Dec 14 '10 at 7:40
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"Currently, we are taking a poll to seek opinion of everyone in the organization." Good god, no! Design by committee isn't design. It's crap. Hire a competent design firm or branding agency. –  DA01 Dec 14 '10 at 20:23
    
We already have! They are providing us the options and and we are taking a poll on those. We understand branding/designing/aesthetics is a specialist job and we want to leave it to the experts. But ultimately, we are the ones who accept one of the options they provide right? Its about that. –  Chirantan Dec 15 '10 at 3:49
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Were the options you were given justified with any sort of research or explanation? Did the firm offer up their choice for best option with sound reasoning? If not, it sounds like options just for the sake of having options. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if it's the case, then it really just comes down to personal preference/taste. –  DA01 Dec 15 '10 at 19:21
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As start-up, I imagine you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time or money on this. Nonetheless, do-it-yourself aesthetic design requires some research and experimentation just like functional design. Fortunately for you, your users are probably a lot like yourselves. Don’t assume your users are just like you personally, but take a look at what attracts your colleagues –what do they have in their cubicles for example. Do they have desktop Zen waterfalls? Dilbert cartoons? Leather flight jackets? Transformer toys? The Mona Lisa? To get some variety, try to arrange to visit to a couple colleagues (and potential customers) at very different workplaces. Ideally, in your case, try to contact some from overseas and ask them to send photos of their work areas and talk to them by phone or Skype about them.

Based on your observations, you should seek an aesthetic that has:

  • Attractiveness, consistent with the basic principles of form and composition. It’s not like there’s one set of specific colors all techies like, but there are some color combinations that look better than others in general. Be careful with trying to look too edgy or trendy –that just looks ugly after a couple years, and you don’t want to look passé right when you’re about to hit the big time.

  • Positive references, where you evoke cultural references to things your users admire. Colors like blues and green are “cool” (as in temperature), and so may suggest a conservative, stable, and calm partner for business. Oranges and reds are “warm” colors, maybe suggesting action, excitement, or emotionality. Lots of businesses want to evoke the former, but what do you want to evoke? There are also some specific associations cultures have with specific combinations. In the US, orange and black, for example, are associated with (a) Halloween, and (b) Harley Davidson, which may or may not be what you want to evoke. Instead, maybe you want to evoke the Transformers. Or Leonardo da Vinci. In any case, you want to suggest, not copy. This avoids copyright violations, among other things. You don’t want a law suit just as you hit the big time, either.

  • Communication, suggesting by your references what your company provides the users. For example, if you make automated code-porting software, then your aesthetics can suggest translation or metamorphosis –maybe a reference to the Transformers. If you make the Do Everything productivity environment for coders that you think will trigger a renaissance in software development, then maybe da Vinci is your man.

  • Non-interfering, sticking pretty much to choice of color, font, the logo, and visual dividers. I agree with Bobby Jack’s answer that you want to keep the aesthetics minimal and functional. Especially when at work, users are primarily concerned with getting their job done, so make sure you don’t frustrate that. Make sure your foreground colors have good contrast with their background and the font is easily readable, for example. Organize by elements by similar function or relation, not just to look good.

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