The importance of colour in trading platforms


Psychologists, scientists, advertisers, web designers and so many others have studied colour extensively throughout the years. Studies that associate colour with psychology, culture and even gender have been conducted in an attempt to understand and appreciate its significance in our everyday lives. Its importance is not questioned any more in terms of user experience, especially in the context of web applications.

Web trading platforms rely strongly on colour to communicate critical information to users. However, colour in this context hasn’t been properly tested so far.

Traditionally, web trading platforms use prominent and primary colours to communicate important and often critical information to the user: Green, red, blue and yellow with high saturation are the most frequently used colours in this context. Magenta and cyan with high saturation are also used often to communicate less critical information, but still important for the user. Background colours are usually black or white, and less often grey, mainly because the contrast ratio between the background colour and the context colours becomes higher, especially when the background colour is either black or white.

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Trading platforms started being used quite early. The first personal computers, although they provided limited technological features (one of them was screen colouring), contributed to the use of trading software. BBC Micro Acorn, Sinclair Zx81, Amstrad and IBM 3270 are some examples of the technology mainly used by traders a few decades ago. Those technologies were revolutionary in their times, but they could only make use of 4 or 8 screen colours before being replaced by other, more advanced technologies who were able to use more. At that moment, colour symbolization was established for trading platforms: green means increase, red means decrease and blue means no change.

Nowadays, it is commonly believed that the use of these colours is the optimal solution when designing web trading platforms.

But is it possible that designing with these colours will not lead to the best user experience our end users can have?

Studies have shown that highly saturated and bright colours, especially when used in combination with other highly saturated colours and bright white or black background, can really be eye- straining for the users. On the other hand, the end users of the web trading platforms usually spend hours monitoring their screens before deciding to perform an action. So, the question is: Considering the amount of time spent in front of the screen, monitoring the trends, would it be better for the end users to use less prominent, less saturated colours? And in that case, will the users be able to find the information they need quickly and effectively?

The answer is that there should always be a balance between using prominent colours that we know they catch the user’s attention and designing “clean” interfaces that our users can actually use daily for as long as they need to.

Nevertheless, these questions should be further examined and tested in the context of web trading platforms.

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