I have a client asking me to change the navigation colour scheme on a website design im doing to match the individual products.

Personally I think its:

  1. a bad idea
  2. it wont work with their overarching brand
  3. it is confusing
  4. just a bad experience.

They have seen the Barbican website which they really like and wish to replicate the navigation colour style here utilising the branded products.


This brand, for the sake of this being public lets call it 'X'.

The site is relatively small and X are only selling 7 products right now and the range will likely grow at a very slow rate, each product is branded with a different colour scheme to distinguish it from the rest. This is something I can not change. They also want this to be AA accessible too.


Are there any studies or research that can back up the suggestion as to why this is a bad idea? Or have any advice that I maybe missing here that I can back up my rationale with.

  • This is why i ask for any research, studies or advice out there that maybe existing because they are not enough to go back to a client with. A/B testing maybe a route to suggest.
    – UIO
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 9:51
  • Color + usability would be concerned about ... contrast, readability, color blindness, etc. Just not liking the colors? Don't think that's a usability issue. Look at Windows XP. Despite the horrible color scheme, people liked the interface enough to stick with it for over a decade.
    – 習約塔
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 9:53
  • The barbican site is slow on my computer (guessing heavy scripting and image loading). That could be a usability concern. I won't stay on the site long enough to figure out what it is, let alone buy any product it might be selling. If this potential issue doesn't concern your client, I doubt there's anything that would.
    – 習約塔
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 10:09

1 Answer 1


This spans branding, usability and accessibility. The Barbican site uses colour to group content that appears outside its primary categories, although importantly doesn't rely only on colour to convey meaning.

Another important consideration on their site is that the non-interactive page elements within each section are all in greyscale, with colour largely being used to show interactivity or identify labels linking to another sections (see screenshot). Whilst this introduces issues around consistency and pattern recognition between screens, it does make it relatively easy to identify interactive features within a single page.

enter image description here

Many sites successfully use colour to differentiate between topics or sections (e.g. The Guardian) but this is most beneficial where those topics are sometimes mixed within a single feed. It also works best when users are expected to frequently return to that site and begin associating colours with their desired meaning.

I think some of the potential issues you identify are valid, but would suggest exploring what could make this work to begin with, rather than just looking for research to support it not working. That's what user testing is for :)

  • + 1 for your suggestion to keep an open mind about this. I can see the pros and cons, I can also imagine making it work especially if the branding of each product is well known / readily identifiable to users. Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 15:42

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