Does My Website Make You See Red?

I’ve been noticing the use of the color red lately. As a single splash of boldness on a web design, designed to draw the eye toward a desired action or important testimonial.

And since reading the excellent Save the Pixel, by web designer Ben Hunt, and studying website attraction principles with the very clever Sean D’Souza, I’m starting to actually pay attention to what I like in the way of design, and why I like it.

Here are a couple of examples of the use of red on the web: 37 signals red Time endorsement

This from 37 Signals home page. The TIME logo effectively attracts attention to the powerful credibility-boosting quote, "One of the Net’s rising stars." If Time magazine said that about me, it would be on my home page too. But don’t worry too much about me – my mother loves me.

And this insurance company landing page (below) provides an excellent use of red in a "chutes and ladders" technique. The page connects the first splash at the top of the page with the "Submit" button at the bottom of the form. (I used this example in a presentation I gave yesterday in Germany. I was one of the only people in the room who couldn’t actually read the page (except for the words "telefon" and "e-mail").

Surprisingly, I found that I saw design more clearly in the absence of textual understanding.) Notice how the red oval with the price – the thing people want to know first when they’re buying insurance – mirrors the end point of the Most Desired Action: the completion of the form. German insurance company landing page

I can’t find the landing page off of AdWords at the moment (search "krankenversicherung" at if you like), but the company’s home page is

So I decided to add a little red to my site. And since I want to practice what I preach – getting the opt-in – I chose the "Send me Chapter 1" button that asks for the opt-in. But I didn’t feel like bothering my designer, so I googled "Web 2.0 button generator" and found a site, As Button Generator, that allowed me to design a bold red button in about a minute:

I’ll see if that increases opt-ins. And I have other plans to build my list, based on some clarity I gained in conversation with Sean D’Souza a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s my question: What document can I offer that would be a more appealing opt-in "bribe" than Chapter 1 of AdWords For Dummies? Anyone who cares enough to answer in the comments section below will be entered in a raffle to win a jar of chocolate mustard from the Bad-Munstereifel Castle Restaurant.

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3 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Leo said on July 9 2008:

    Hey Howie:

    Hate to “name drop” but…

    The red thing is something that Maria Veloso (she was what John is to Perry) used in her sites.

    I also remember “Carlos and Lupe” talking about the red call to action.

    Finally, Eric Graham has all the call-to-actions on his sites set up as red but then to turn green when the visitor hoovers over the link (red-light/green-light).

    To be on the safe side, I use a red cta with a green arrow pointing to it. I use that right off the bat so I couldn’t tell you have the stats are otherwise.

    As for a “better mouse trap” with respect your Ch 1, I would think that offering the jar of chocolate mustard itself would knock your opt-ins off the charts…


  2. #2 • Howie Jacobson said on July 10 2008:


    That mustard is kind of expensive. I’m not sure if my visitor value data justifies a $16 opt-in bribe at this point.

    And if you know Sean D’Souza’s work on consumption, you’ll see that chocolate mustard has challenges there as well ;)

    But I see you’re angling for a jar, which is cool, so keep those suggestions coming!

  3. #3 • Gemma Laming said on July 3 2011:

    This is now 2011 … is the sell-by date on the mustard still good? Mind you, probably easier for me to trot down to Euskirchen though.

    But this is not the point of your piece here: your objectivity to the design of a web page offered by its un-intelligiblity is something worth bearing in mind. Certainly a good designer possesses this skill – whatever designer they may be. But speaking another language, especially if learned in later life requires one first to understand one’s own, and this is effectively to objectify what one sees of oneself and culture. If you can do that then you have one more skill to deal with the world around you.