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5 Free Tools To Create A Website Color Palette

  • By Brad Poirier
  • 19 Mar, 2016

We live in a world full of color, choose wisely

"Use every crayon color that you've got", so says the lyrics to Eric Church's song - Three Year Old.  While that may be a wonderful song from a dad to his son, you shouldn't use every color on your website, your social media posts, flyers, business cards, or anything else that you need to make a first, lasting impression to a potential customer. Except most people, including myself, didn't go to an art school. So how do you carefully decide what colors to use when creating a stunning website color palette? Here's a few free color tools that I use regularly and highly recommend.

1) Color Meter - Mac OS X

This first free color tool is part of the Mac OS X system. It's most basic use is to get an RGB value for anything you put the cursor on. It's built in to OS X, but it's not highlighted anywhere. It's likely not in your dock already, so let's add it. Hit CMD-SPACE to search for "Color Meter", or go to your applications folder and look for color meter. Although with OSX 10.10 Yosemite, Apple changed the name to Digital Color Meter, same program.

Once you have it open, it will start to instantly give you RGB values wherever the pointer is. Just hover over an image or an existing background, or anything and it will give you the value. For instance, in the screen shot above you can see the mouse is hovering over one of the blue pencils giving it a value of R:8, G:33, B:74. You can then use that in various other programs to match the color. Use it to select a base color that you are looking for.

A little tip on this: You may need to lock the where it's pointing. If you get the RGB value and then switch to another program, it will change the values because now your mouse isn't on that same window area and you just lost the code. To prevent this from happening, his CMD-X and CMD-Y to lock the x and y axis respectively.

2) Instant Eyedropper Tool - Windows

If there's a built in tool that Microsoft provides for Windows users, I'm not aware of it. There is a free add on you can get from Instant Eyedropper Tool though. It works similar to the Color Meter.  It has an advantage though. Instead of just hovering over and giving you the RGB value, a 'click' on the pixel area will copy the HTML code of the color to the clipboard, allowing you to paste it into your website (if needed).

Easy instructions from their website are:
1) Move the mouse pointer to the Instant Eyedropper icon in the system tray.
2) Press and hold the left mouse button and move the mouse pointer to the pixel whose color you want to identify.
3) Release the mouse button.
That's it!

3) Adobe Color Wheel

Adobe Color Wheel  has become my go to resource for creating palettes. You don't even need to login to use this. Though if you do sign in and have  a CC membership, you can transfer the swatches over to an applicable CC program. It lets you create 7 different types of palettes: Analogous, Monochromatic, Triad, Complimentary, Compound, Shades and Custom. 
All you need to do is put one color in and it will create the rest for you. So for instance, you can use one of the color pickers from above, and then take the color code and pop it into the color wheel's middle area and it will return the corresponding 4 other colors depending on the mode you choose. From there you can take the other codes and copy-paste them where ever you need them. Below is a short explanation of four different types of palettes created.

Analogous - These are groups of colors next to each other on the color wheel. For instance, you might have: Red, Orange and then Red-Orange.
Monochromatic colors - These are the colors (shades) of a single HUE. Best way to visualize this is a paint swatch in your local paint store. You can see the colors going from darker to lighter but all in the same color family.
´╗┐Triadic Color  ´╗┐- A triadic color palette uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Think of a color, then create an equilateral triangle in your head and the other two points make up a triadic color palette.
Complimentary Colors - These are colors directly opposite each other in the color wheel, such as red and green or blue.

Which one should you use? Well, whatever one you like best. I recommend sticking to no more than THREE colors for any given project, but particularly on web. I usually use a monochromatic palette as it easiest on the eyes and I choose two colors from it and then take a third color thats very contrasting to use when I need to make something 'pop'.

4) Paletton - Color Scheme Designer

Up until I discovered Adobe Color Wheel, I was using Paletton very frequently. Paletton has several features over Adobe. One of those is the ability to export the palette without signing in. You can export the color list as HTML, CSS, XML or Text. You can further save the swatch as a PNG file which you can then drop into a photo editor and use the color picker to create graphics and text.
They also offer a neat way to show a quick mockup of what the color scheme looks like with the Examples tab. It will show you a basic website with a bunch of Lorem Ipsum's everywhere, but using the color palette. You can even change the theme from a white background, to a dark or negative space.
There are other examples to choose from such as artwork and also animations. The artwork lets you choose from a shatter explosion, flowers, splash, glitter or fabric.
There are two animations you can choose from, Bubbles or Stripes.

The board on the right has the colors repeating themselves but in larger or smaller blocks so you can have an idea of how they'll relate to each other at different sizes.

5) Colour Lovers

Colour Lovers is a creative community where people from around the world create and share colors, palettes and patterns. I only recently discovered this but am already loving it. I recently started working on a mockup for a local bakery. I knew in my head what colors I wanted, but I couldn't find the exact color combinations. I searched for a bakery palette in Colour Lovers and was able to find the above palette shown in the screenshot. It was exactly what I was looking for. Although, there were actually several variations of this palette, this is the one I was looking for.

Colour Lovers allows you to see the individual HEX or RGB values for each swatch, or you can save the palette as an image. The export options are very simple, but very powerful. If you need a bit of inspiration, try out Colour Lovers. If it's not exactly what you're looking for, try taking one color that you want as a base and pop it into Adobe's Color Wheel or Paletton.com and see what new results you can get back.
Are there other tools that you are aware of? What are your favorites? Let us hear it in the comments.

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By Brad Poirier 07 Mar, 2017
Did you know that the average consumer checks your website at least two times from two different devices before they journey into your location? Over 60% of searches start  from a smartphone device , but there is still a great amount of desktop and tablet traffic coming in. Why is that? Some of that desktop traffic is the original, organic traffic yes. However, a lot of it is a returning customer. Perhaps you're a kitchen remodeler , someone searches for "kitchen remodeling" and they find your website from their smartphone. They're not ready to buy yet though. So they bookmark or they email their significant other the web address. When they get home, they venture to their desktop or start using their tablet to continue the research.

Most (amateur) web designers only pay attention to the desktop view. Sad face: many web designers still build websites that are desktop only, they're not building responsive websites that are mobile-optimized. The worst part is they're often designing this on a 20" or larger monitor. Of course it's easy to design a great site when you have 20" of a digital canvas to work with. The real Picasso comes out when you can take that same great experience and display that on a 4" screen, AND to optimize it for as slow as a 3G connection. There's a big difference between your site being mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized. Mobile-friendly usually just means making sure the content is formatted to scroll up and down and no content stretches beyond the width of the smartphone screen. Mobile-optimized is taking the same content from your desktop and optimizing it for a mobile experience. This is important now more than ever, as Google has started to ONLY SEO Index your mobile site and not your desktop site.

So that's the why I design websites using four screens. You might interested in knowing what are the screens I design with, and how I use each one of them to turn your website from blah to Yahhh! I only build websites that are responsive. I check how the content looks and how the content interacts along the way. Below are the screens that I use to check this with and more importantly, the order in which I do this.

Screen #1 - Smartphone
You might be shocked to think that the first screen I check my work on is a mobile device. If you were a bakery and 60% of your revenue came from donuts, would you start your morning by prepping the cookies and pastries? You start with your money maker! Well, since over 60% of all Google searches start from a mobile device, why would you start with the device that people aren't using as much? I'll tell you why, it's because you're working with an amateur designer. Or perhaps you're working with a legacy designer who won't budge. When I design in a mobile-first environment, I can truly focus on that experience and maximizing it's potential. We focus on getting the most important information right away. For most businesses this means placing a "TAP-TO-CALL" style button at the top of the page. Nothing is more frustrating than having to remember the number in your head and quickly double-tap-your-home-button to get to the phone dialer and attempt to get every number in there correctly. If location visits are important we also make sure there are easy-to-find buttons for loading your bulit-in GPS navigation.

What do you think the next screen is going to be?

Screen #2 - Tablet
Did you guess that correctly? It's only natural to work my way up the screen size. Now that I've mastered the experience for mobile, I can open up canvas a little here and work on the tablet view. Tablets today range from about 7"-10" and yes there are those two outliers that are around 13" , but they're still a tablet, at least according to the internet browser being used. A growing trend for the tablet view is using what we call the "hamburger" menu. That's the 3-line menu button you might see in the upper right or left hand corner of the screen. We layout the navigation in both the hamburger format and the traditional horizontal navigation. It all depends on the business and the goal of your website. That's why we custom design all of our sites starting with a 1-on-1 consultation . Since a tablet is still inherently a mobile device where the user interacts using only a touchscreen, we still are focusing on easy, tappable buttons. Consumers are used to tapping on items with their tablets, we make it super easy for that to happen. Gone are the days of only making links available from within the text. Consumers need clear call-to-action buttons to guide them along their buying journey.

Screens #3 & #4 - Laptop & Large Monitor
Technically I'm designing and coding everything on my large monitor, but the testing is being done on multiple screens. However, when I start to design for the desktop, I'm using my laptop which dual outputs to a 21" cinema display. This allows me to have the freedom of design but to see how it will interact on a 13" monitor (which is about the average monitor size for a small laptop). The most important content is "above the fold". So if it's not designed right, some of the content that looks good on 21" would normally get cut off on a smaller screen. We make sure that doesn't happen. The desktop design is where it does get a lot more fun, and more roomy. It's like trying to pack a bunch of moving boxes into a cargo van when you've been using your 1988 Corolla earlier that day. Ahh, you can breathe a little. However, use this space carefully. Remember, with great space comes great responsibility. I've seen many web designers who came from a graphic design background. It is honestly a natural progression, but it's an entirely different approach. Use a white space or negative space is critical here. So if you're used to working with that graphic designer who loves using tons of colors and turning text into metal like beveled art and everything else that came with cheap Photoshop work from 10 years ago, they're in the wrong arena. You have about 5 seconds to capture someone's attention before they'll decide to leave the website. Now, a lot of that comes from excellent copywriting and headline writing , but bad design choices will confuse the consumer and cause them to leave and go to the next result in line.

So there you have it. The method to my madness. Some people look at website design and say why not , I look at website design and say why ? Rule of thumb: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. I'm on the web all day long. I can easily spot a badly performing website, in terms of conversion. Today, you're website is all about conversion . Your business can't afford to run a wiki-pedia website. It needs to be a lean, mean, lead-generating machine. This applies to all business websites.

What are some examples of good and bad website design that you have seen?
By Brad Poirier 20 Feb, 2017
BONUS: See how your website stacks up with your competition. Get a free website audit .
By Brad Poirier 13 Feb, 2017
The great Don Draper once said "If you don't like what is being said, then change the conversation." So while it may be super frustrating to see one of those pesky millennials leaving you a bad review because their Valentine's dinner didn't go as planned, this presents a great opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade. Negative reviews are just as important as positive reviews. How could that be?

Google loves reviews. The more Google loves you, the better chance you have of another Taco.. or three.. four. A bad review isn't always a bad reflection on your business, it's just consumers way of giving you feedback or reaching out for a listening ear to make a wrong, right. In all the years I've been on Yelp and Facebook, what I've seen that most people want when leaving a review, is just to have a voice. When I go out to a restaurant or to any retail business these days, if there's a problem and I muster up the courage to speak to a manager, I have no idea how that manager is going to take that feedback. They might be too busy to pay attention or just lack the customer service skills required to actually care.

That's where online reviews come in. Some may think that it's a case of anonymous bravery behind a computer screen, but when someone is leaving a negative review, they might just want to get in touch - on their own terms. You have to be prepared to communicate with them on those terms.

Below are some general do's and dont's on how to respond to negative reviews. By the way, this could apply to positive reviews in many ways. You should respond to every online review, both positive and negative. Yes, it require a little bit of time, but you would never ignore a customer that's right in front of you. It can be a daunting task, however, to scour the internet for every review out there. That's why there is Online Reputation Management available. Reputation Management involves software that automatically finds any mention of your business on the internet and provides an alert and a tool to respond to them, regardless of which social media directory they left the review on. Learn more about Online Reputation Management here .
By Brad Poirier 28 Dec, 2016
Quick Question: What's the first thing you did this morning when you woke up. I'm willing to bet it involved picking up your smartphone and performing some sort of mobile action, wether it's checking email or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. We are in a mobile-first world. If you're still trying to figure out how to get ahead in this "digital world", this article is well beyond that. The world is (rapidly) shifting to a mobile world. You need to provide an incredible experience on a 4" display as you would on a large display. That's the trick and the problem SMB's have faced. You're not paying attention to your mobile experience.

You might be immediately saying: "Well my website is already mobile." Great, you're (slightly) ahead of the game. It is very likely though, that your website only uses a "mobile site" and not a responsive website design. Mobile-sites are simply optimized for viewing on a phone, they're not optimized for the user experience. Starting pretty soon, you're website's traffic will get killed for it. Listen up.
By Brad Poirier 20 Dec, 2016
Let’s face it. Personal New Year’s resolutions are made for one thing: to be broken. Only 8% of people are successful at achieving their resolution. The #1 resolution each year is to lose weight . The struggle is real when you are faced with eating a 3,500 calorie pizza for lunch and a wedge salad. Pizza. Always. Wins. Your business resolution, however, has a much better chance at success. In fact, this article will show you how to have a guaranteed 100% success rate in your business resolution for 2017.
By Brad Poirier 12 Dec, 2016
Hearthside is an award-winning historic house museum presenting historically themed exhibits and original programs. Costumed docents guide visitors on tours, furnished throughout in period style. Hearthside is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operates under the stewardship of the all-volunteer nonprofit Friends of Hearthside, Inc.

The website for hearthsidehouse.org utilized old web standards and was not mobile optimized. The website could not be edited by the museum stewards and thus was a tedious process to get new content.

Breeze Digital Media created a responsive website for Hearthside House and implemented an easy to use Content Management System so the stewards can make regular calendar and event updates on their own.
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