Color Coding for Business Applications
Color-coding in UX can be a powerful tool for business applications. Not only do colors communicate how data are structured, they make the user experience more enjoyable. Let’s look at how utilizing color-coding can bring order to complex systems.
There are several standard conventions for semantic color usage with which designers and consultants should be familiar: red is an error, green signals success, amber displays a warning. Baked into the common UI framework of Bootstrap are standard classes for these color usages, as well as primary and secondary colors. Often based on your client's branding, those colors show up in headers, on buttons, and can liven up mouseover and field focus style effects.
Bootstrap color classes provide necessary context; designers can tune these hues to fit within an application's branding.
Beyond Bootstrap: Colors & Learning
This categorical color system is common in data visualization design, but works equally well to code modules in this school management system.
The applications of color described above are the industry standard. However, in large business applications with multiple sections of content, color should be deployed to help the user keep track of where they are. The user is more likely to have a successful experience if navigational spaces are broken up into small pieces. Keep in mind: color coding should always supplement other visual signposts so that colorblind users can still distinguish sections.
Organizing data by color reinforces the user's understanding of how the application works. This is true especially if those color references appear consistently whenever the user encounters the categories of information tied to those colors. Through this simple method, the user can learn the structure of an application faster and feel more confident in their actions.
There are plenty of articles about how humans perceive and form associations with certain colors. However, in the case of informational organization, it might not be relevant that purple connotes royalty or blue is calming. The most important factor to consider when choosing colors for coding information is how different the colors are from each other, and from the other colors used in the application.
Beyond differentiation, select colors that match or extend the look and feel of the application's existing branding. As you craft your prototypes, look for opportunities to feature a range of coded colors together. Make sure that each color works independently and as part of the group. An excellent resource for selecting modern colors that play well together is Material's Color System. Beyond offering up some bright and punchy color palettes, the folks at Material have taken great care in explaining the theory behind why these colors work. Learn those rules, and then go out and break them with confidence.
For an in-depth analysis of how Khan Academy uses (and doesn't use) color coding effectively, click here to read this article on Prototypr.