This is a screenshot from a windows store productivity app called OneCloudDrive. As this is a productivity app, I have tried to keep the UI simple and pleasing to eyes.

Is this really a correct approach?

Do we always need bright colors to entice users?

Does keeping the UI too simple with subtle colors, make a UI boring and dull?

enter image description here

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    Maybe not bright colors, but different colors can certainly help from a functional standpoint, making it easier to find things. For example: If .mp3 files and .jpg files in this image were different colors, the user would have an easier time visually sorting music files vs. image files. – RhinoFeeder Apr 28 '15 at 15:38
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    Where did you get the idea that subtle colors == boring and that bright colors are used to entice users? – Mayo Apr 28 '15 at 15:39
  • my question comprised of both simple UI with Subtle colors and there effect on user engagement but the question was edited to sound this way by another user. For me subtle colors are great for productivity apps. – Jack_2060 Apr 28 '15 at 16:11
  • Why do you think that design is pleasing to the eye? To me, the big blobs of mainly light blue on white are major distractions from the text, which is hard to read (though that may just be your image). I would skip over it as too hard to use. – jamesqf Apr 28 '15 at 19:17

Effective design is more important that exciting design

If this is a system you want users to feel comfortable learning and using frequently, your primary goal should be to provide an interface (including a set of colors) that allows users to manipulate their cloud files as quickly and effectively as possible.

Once that goal has been accomplished, you can decide on a secondary goal of how to provide details (colors, animations, etc) which can enhance marketing appeal for the product.

If you are choosing bright colors and high contrast just to draw attention, you may violate the primary goals because your interface becomes visually distracting to users who are just trying to do simple file manipulation but now have to read glaring white-on-bright-blue text or icons.

You can still use color effectively to draw attention while fulfilling a purpose.

  • In your screenshot, the icons are bright blue which creates a lot of visual distraction because there are a lot of files. The blue doesn't actually fulfill any purpose other than to draw attention.
  • Instead, you might use blue to show hover-over files, or files being dragged, or page titles, etc. In each of these cases, you are using bright colors in a functional rather than a purely decorative (and potentially distracting) way.

A canonical example of effective but striking/enticing interface design is the original iPod, which did not need bright colors to entice users but rather provided elementary shapes (square, circle) and functional minimalism to draw appeal while retaining sharp focus on usability.


Differentiation is critical

You don’t need “bright” colors to do it. In your example, the blue is nice and bright, but the view overall feels terribly monotonous and dull. It’s heading in the right direction with file type icons, but the impact is deadened because they’re all bounded by the same square of color (all but one). As a user, I’d be inclined to give up on this app before digging in.

Color would be a key differentiator in this view. If each file type had it’s own icon and color (even variations of blue like the Word doc), scanning the files for a particular thing would be faster.

It doesn’t matter whether you use bright colors or pastels or earth tones — it’s the differentiation that will make it work.

  • thanks for the insight, what about the background? In my head i was trying to get the user's focus on the content (files in this case) instead of background. So if i go ahead and make more distinction in app icon/colors, does having a plain background will still be a problem? – Jack_2060 Apr 28 '15 at 16:22
  • The neutral background isn't a problem. I think it fits the need well. You should get a designer's help balancing all the colors in then end, which may include the background, but it shouldn't need any notable changes. – plainclothes Apr 28 '15 at 16:36

Don't create over simplicity that user can't find files easily (in your case) or can't differentiate different areas of your app.... Grouping similar items in grey boxes or showing active area of interaction with different background color is commonly used in APP UI Design

Like in your example, i can only see two file types blue and purple, but what about the image icons in there. Image and Audio files are looking same...

I am a UI Designer, i normally start with one Primary color, one secondary color then from here you can create different shades and tints of these same colors to get more colors in your hands...

You might have seen 2 or 3 different grey shades in recent app design trends....

Choosing color also depends on the fact that how long your user is going to use your app

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