4 Reasons to Defend “Boring” Blue Calls to Action

By Josh Christopher
Senior UX Designer, projekt202

Originally published in Medium

Lately, I’ve heard many folks prod and poke at the poor, defenseless blue buttons and text links. That being said, I felt it necessary to stick up for our little UI components as they cannot effectively stand up for themselves.

It is not lost on me that we use orange links for our blog in following the projekt202 brand. There are instances where I completely understand blue is not the preferred option. My focus here, however, is that usability should ultimately drive the conversations around interactions. There are many instances in which the designer could and should use blue links and buttons as a starting point to determine how to style calls to action.

Below is a list of what blue calls to action have going for them.

Blue is accessible

So many companies today are doing this wonderful thing :  they are striving to make software products everyone can use, regardless of their abilities. Orange and blue are the two colors that tend to be visible to most humans. Utilization of blue makes sense if you are designing with usability in mind. If you do choose to innovate on color, there are some really great tools out there like colorsafe.co to help you find accessible color variations for your buttons and text links.

Look at all that blue iOS 9 UI Kit Template from http://www.sketchappsources.com
Look at all that blue iOS 9 UI Kit Template from http://www.sketchappsources.com

A conditioned response

For the same reason we now generally accept that a user’s understanding of iconography is based on previous experience, one could also make the case that users have become accustomed to looking for the blue text link or button and are familiar with the pattern when wanting to take action. It is used everywhere: iOS and Android regularly use blue to highlight a primary call to action, browser default hyperlinks are #0000EE, and I can go on and on. I won’t go so far as saying it’s a “universal pattern,” but I think it issafe to say, if you plan to select a color most familiar to your users, then blue will be your Huckleberry.

Color theory

If we go for a trip back to art school and revisit color theory (hang in there with me), blue is a color complement to warmer tones like orange. It is an analogous color to cooler colors like green and purple. Therefore, it is not only a color that most people will be able to recognize (accessible), but it will most likely either complement your brand’s palette or it will be in a similar family as your company’s brand color and will go nicely with it. As a general aside, if you are using a very prevalent color through your entire design and are A/B testing button options for throughput, your best bet may be to pull focus and create a hierarchy on them by selecting a complement of the color used most aggressively throughout.

it sublty siignals daytime
it sublty siignals daytime

It subtly signals daytime to your brain

High-level research by companies like f.lux (also the new Night Shift in iOS 9.3) suggests warmer colors are better for users’ health and can better prepare them for sleep if using devices in bed. Therefore, the opposite could be implied for blue light. Though possibly detrimental to your users’ sleep, it may help signal to users that they need to be alert.

I’m not "some grandpa" telling you to only use blue as if it is some sort of universal color choice for all calls to action. I am saying, however, there is plenty of good to be said for the arguably overused, but effectively hard-to-dispute, blue button.