We're using red as the colour for primary Actions. This can be in the form of a button.

In terms of usability, what are the downsides. Are there any upsides at all?

An example for using red coloured buttons is gmail I suppose.

UPDATE: Thanks for the answers about cultural factors. It's good to be reminded of it, but as @rk says, that importance is starting to diminish and I'd like to steer the discussion in another direction.

  • 2
    Related: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/18927/…
    – JOG
    Mar 26, 2013 at 14:20
  • For starters, if there's a red/green colour blindness issue to consider and you use plenty of red and green elements throughout then I'd be wary of its use. But if you combine colour with other elements (like text and symbol) then it is easier to manage.
    – Michael Lai
    Jul 27, 2014 at 22:59

7 Answers 7


It makes no sense to consider a single color. You have to consider the color in its context. No one was ever stopped from drinking Coca-Cola because of the red in the logo.

So long as the context and the surroundings are unknown, it is impossible to give an informed opinion on a choice of color.

  • Thanks for that, changing our way of thinking about it is the answer. Mar 27, 2013 at 14:40
  • I agree/disagree because of how the color is handled. I know with experience in print/digital media the color red is handled differently due to it's value and weight. Red used as a title in a magazine may not have the same look/feel on a website. Coca-cola's red label is easily identifiable among other competing sodas and works in their favor. Their website(us.coca-cola.com) has different red values/weight which gives a disorienting/overwhelming feeling that can detour users. I personally struggle with the powerful color everytime I redeem mycoke rewards as the color hurts my eyes. Mar 29, 2013 at 12:53

What colors mean in different cultures

It's quite an age old question in UX/Universal Design. But, with time I feel the importance diminishing. Some reasons maybe true globalization of products/brands/english language/etc. I know companies still have to rebrand their products based on the country the are launching in, but those cases are getting fewer. Once again, just a personal observation.

Edit 1: On a related note, it is a good idea to test for color blindness. You can use something like http://colorfilter.wickline.org/ to test your website. Here is a list of different types of color blindnesses http://www.colour-blindness.com/colour-blindness-tests/.

If your user base is going to be huge, it is a good idea to make sure that you atleast test the site to find out the problem areas, even if you do not use it in the design. You can use the information to see if you need to add some contextual cues in specific regions.

  • Exactly what I was thinking, thanks. I'd totally agree that culture is not such an important factor in color choice anymore, thus I'm really looking for an answer that would focus on the other non-cultural implications. Mar 26, 2013 at 14:53
  • 1
    Added some information for color blindness.
    – rk.
    Mar 26, 2013 at 16:57

In western culture, red has a negative connotation (however for Japan this is the opposite). It is used as a warning or error, so using it as the primary option is a violation of the consistency principle (at least for most users).

While cultural meaning might not be as important as it used to be, having consistent user interfaces is. Since most applications use red for warnings and errors, the use of red for primary actions could actually still hurt the user experience.

See also Microsoft's color meanings.

msdn color meaning

  • While red may have certain connotation in different contexts, the red, yellow, green triplet is analogous to traffic signals, and it is a certainty that in Japan, red means stop.
    – horatio
    Mar 26, 2013 at 14:56
  • You are right, it is meant as an illustration that different colors have different meanings in different cultures. While red is indeed used in traffic lights, Japanese people would have different associations and emotions to the color red than people from western cultures.
    – TomDoes
    Mar 26, 2013 at 15:11

As a designer, red is considered to provoke the most response amongst users. However depending on how the color is used it can have positive or negative effects.

Within my workplace the use of a navy blue color as a primary action button and a light grey color as a secondary button are practiced. These colors provide a balance to forms located throughout our website.

enter image description here

The reason for this is alerts within our website are in red. If we were to use red as a primary action it could confuse the user who has interpreted the color red to mean an error or negative. It can also throw off the balance of the page if your using subtle colors and then used a bright red button.

A great article on UX Magazine discussing "Visual Balance and Weight Allocation for Usability" can provide more insight on the subject.


There is no right color for your primary and secondary buttons. What does matter is how much contrast there is between the two.

I believe that the color does have a huge significance in what you are trying to display to the user, however I do not believe that the exact hue or shade has an enormous significance as long as your UI is consistent throughout your entire website. To back up what @TomDoes is saying, Context is key, depending on what the context of your website is, will be how your users feel about it.

Pinterest is a great example of a company that uses red for all of their primary buttons.

Pinterest login screen

pin screen


Keeping in view one of Nielsen heuristic "Match between system and the real world". Red colour is perceived to be for ending anything in progress in real world, for example in tape recorders to stop recording stop button is used which have red dot or circle for identification. Similar, is the case with the televisions in which red colour identifies the button used to turn off the television.


I agree it depends on the Context

I have a similar project where i am using red color for primary action and white button with red text on it for secondary action....Links are also red and grey...

enter image description here

Now for the table of data, the context is changed and now the red color only shows Negative values and green shows positive values and blue is for links.......

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