Should I consider creating additional color palettes for specific elements or scenarios?


Yes, creating additional color palettes for specific elements or scenarios can be beneficial for several reasons:

  • Differentiation: Use distinct color schemes to help users navigate complex interfaces by clearly marking different sections, like dashboard vs. reporting tools.
  • Mood and atmosphere: Adjust color palettes within the same app to set different tones, such as vibrant colors for active sections of the wellness application and softer hues for relaxation areas.
  • Branding: Different products or services under the same brand may need unique color schemes to maintain individual identity while aligning with the overall brand.
  • Accessibility: Design alternate color schemes to accommodate users with vision impairments.
  • Seasonal or event-driven changes: Employ temporary color changes for promotions or seasonal themes to keep the interface dynamic and engaging.

Allowing user customization of color settings also enhances personalization and accessibility. Each palette should complement the overall design and user experience.

Deep dive

Yes. Additional app color palettes should be considered for specific elements or scenarios in a few cases:


When you need to distinguish between different sections, categories, or levels of information within your interface, an additional color palette can help users intuitively distinguish between these areas. This is especially important in complex applications where users need to quickly identify specific types of information (e.g., a dashboard versus a reporting section). 

Here's a great example of a brand with diverse service directions, using different colors for each. This makes it easier for users to navigate an app or a website and interact with the products.

Display of the Headspace app's navigation with color-coded paths representing categories like Meditation, Sleep, and Mental Health.

Mood and atmosphere 

Consider creating an additional color palette to create different moods or atmospheres within the same application or website. For example, a wellness app might use brighter, more vibrant colors for workout sections, while using calmer, softer hues for meditation or relaxation sections.

Screenshots from Headspace website showcasing the 'Sleep' and 'Meditation' sections with user interface and app features.

Branding purposes 

An additional color palette might be needed for an application with different products or services with unique branding elements under the same brand. In this case, each product or service might have its color palette to maintain individuality while still aligning with the overall corporate brand. Check out how Virgin implemented this approach:

Virgin's website showcases three services: Virgin Experience Days, Virgin Galactic, and Virgin Atlantic, each with distinct branding colors.

Variation for accessibility 

Creating different color palettes can help cater to the needs of users with vision impairments. People with colorblindness, for instance, have difficulty distinguishing certain colors, so you might need to create a palette that's friendly to their vision. This is how HubSpot realized this:

HubSpot's CRM software in light and high contrast modes, showcasing accessibility options for visually impaired users.

Useful tools: BrowserStack – test WCAG compliance. Wave – test web accessibility.  

Temporal scenarios 

For events, promotions, or seasonal changes, temporary color palettes can help make your platform more dynamic and engaging. For instance, brand websites often change their color scheme to reflect the holiday season, like Christmas or Halloween.

A Google Doodle image collection with various doodles, including educational themes, celebratory events, raindrops, and Halloween designs.

Dynamic colors 

Letting users customize their color settings is a great way to make your interface more user-friendly. This flexibility not only personalizes the experience but also makes your application more accessible by allowing people to choose colors that are easier for them to see.

GitHub theme preferences screen showing options for light and dark themes, including accessibility options.

Related reading: Dynamic colors 

In each scenario, ensure that the introduction of new web design color palettes maintains overall design coherence, aligns with your application's functional requirements, and enhances the user experience. Consistency in UI elements’ design and interaction patterns should be preserved to avoid confusion.

❓Questions designers should ask themselves

By asking the right questions, designers can question their decisions, find areas to improve, make sure nothing is overlooked, and reduce mistakes, leading to better, more thoughtful designs.

  • What is the primary purpose of each specific element or scenario that requires an additional color palette?
  • How will the chosen colors enhance usability, guide user attention, and communicate information effectively?
  • Are the selected colors consistent with our brand guidelines and the overall aesthetic of the application?
  • Have we tested the color palettes for accessibility, ensuring sufficient contrast ratios and considering color blindness?
  • How will the additional color palettes impact user experience across different devices and screen sizes?
  • Have we conducted user testing to validate the effectiveness and clarity of the chosen colors?

⚠️ Common mistakes to avoid

Learning from your mistakes is important, but many problems can indeed be predicted and avoided. Based on Cieden's collective expertise, we're sharing the most common ones.

Using too many colors, leading to visual clutter and confusion.

  • Overusing colors: Too many colors can overwhelm users and create visual clutter. Stick to a limited color palette that serves specific purposes.
  • Ignoring accessibility: Failing to consider color contrast ratios and color blindness can exclude a significant portion of your user base.
  • Inconsistent application: Inconsistent use of colors across the application can confuse users and undermine the benefits of additional color palettes.
  • Neglecting cultural considerations: Colors can have different meanings and associations in different cultures. Be mindful of these differences when designing for a global audience.
  • Relying solely on color: While color is a powerful tool, it should not be the only means of conveying information. Always use color in combination with other visual cues and clear labeling.

👥 How to convince stakeholders

One of the most crucial skills for a designer is being able to explain and back up their ideas. If you're having a hard time convincing stakeholders, take a look at our tips to help you communicate better.

  • Share research findings from cognitive psychology and human-computer interaction studies that underscore the significance of color in user perception and decision-making.
  • Provide examples of successful business applications that effectively use additional color palettes to enhance usability and guide user attention. Highlight how these applications have improved user satisfaction and business outcomes.
  • Gather data from user testing sessions that demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed color palettes in improving usability, reducing cognitive load, and increasing user engagement. Use quantitative and qualitative feedback to support your case.
  • Highlight the importance of creating an inclusive and accessible application that caters to a diverse range of users. Explain how additional color palettes can help meet accessibility standards and ensure that the application is usable by individuals with color vision deficiencies.
  • Demonstrate how the strategic use of color can contribute to achieving business objectives, such as increasing user adoption, improving user satisfaction, and reducing support costs. Use metrics and KPIs to quantify the potential impact on the bottom line.

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