Use of red in hyperlinks and buttons

22 Mar 2013 - 8:22pm
2 years ago
8 replies
4912 reads
Drew Cogswell

I'm currently debating the use of red for hyperlinks and button color standards for a site design over traditional colors such as blue.  Does anyone have any articles or research on the use of color in web typography, titles, hyperlinks, buttons, etc. they can refer me to?  Thanks for any help.


23 Mar 2013 - 2:51am
Fredrik Matheson

Did you check any of the previous discussions on this matter?

24 Mar 2013 - 8:22am
Tania Schlatter

Questions about the effect of a color in a design need to be answered in context. The effect depends on:

  • what other colors are used with the color in question
  • the amount of the color used 
  • the role of the information presented in the particular color
  • the tone, content and personality of the content/site. 


Red in particular should not be dismiised as a color only for errors. Its use should be evaluated according to other criteria, for example:
  • how important is the information conveyed in red? Red, in particular, draws the eye more than "cooler" colors such as blues, but again, this is contextual and depends on the points above. 
  • in context, are the elements in the color in question drawing the eye appropriately in terms of the hierarchy of information presented?
  • how important is the color in terms of brand or consistency with related materials that a user may see from this organization? 

Check out for a lot of willy-nilly use of red, their corporate color. This is an example of taking the corporate color too far. Some links are red, but there is so much red, that the red links do not stand out. Everything in red is shouting, and there is no visual hierarchy as a result. The effect of the red becomes almost neutral – completely ineffective.

The image of an old version of the home page attached also uses a lot of red, the corporate color, but the effect is much better – clear visual hierarchy courtesy of strategic use of red – using red to draw the eye in accordance with hierarchy of information that Target wants the viewer to see. 


Hope this helps puts your question in perspective. 



25 Mar 2013 - 8:47am
Brenda Sanderson

You might also consider that red is a common colour-blind bias for a significant percentage of the population - making links more difficult to discern for this group.

26 Mar 2013 - 11:15am
Ivan Burmistrov

Luke Wroblewski teaches that using “red text for anything but errors should be avoided”. I completely agree. Evolution of many websites that used red for headings, links and buttons in the past shows that later they turned to more normal color schemes. It is well-known that crasy marketing people often insist on using red if this color is a corporate color. You should resist this absurd requirement and explain that website is a completely inappropriate place for exercising in branding.

26 Mar 2013 - 3:08pm
Charlie Kreitzberg

<website is a completely inappropriate place for exercising in branding.>



27 Mar 2013 - 2:13pm
Ivan Burmistrov

Hi Charlie,

Branding is ok for office interiors, officers' uniforms, billboards, leaflets, stationery etc. But any interactive product (like websites, ATMs and other self-service devices, mobile apps) has its own laws and rules. You probably know that better than me. Why nobody reinforces brand identity in windows or mac applications? However, many decision-makers are sure that they can sacrifice usability to branding on websites...



27 Mar 2013 - 10:38pm
Jack L. Moffett


You are mistaken if you think that the only way to brand a website or web application is to sacrifice usability. I've visually branded many web applications for my customers. A lot of Mac applications are branded and quite usable. Don't limit branding to corporate colors and a logo. In fact, I would argue that an application's user interface becomes part of a company's brand, whether it's intentionally "branded" or not.



28 Mar 2013 - 1:12pm

Hi Drew,

What is the goal of using red over other colors in your designs? Is it something you can mock up and get in front of a small sample size of users representative of your end-users (customers, clients, people...) in order to guage their perceptions?

I mostly agree with Luke Wrobleski's recommendations on the usage of red text, but would argue that effectively implementing the color red into your designs can establish the correct expectations for your viewers - emphasis on effectively. While I feel it's still safe to say we associate red text with an error message, I feel it is safe to add that we expect to see that red text in context to an action we make when trying to execute a particular task we feel can solicit an error.

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