Go Google something. Okay, now, go and check Facebook. Great, okay, now, pop onto Twitter. And, just to seal the deal, take a peek at your LinkedIn.
You know what you just saw a lot of? The color blue.
Blue is the most popular color on the internet by far. But as to why, well, that seems to be up for debate.
The atmosphere is blue
One reason might have to do with the atmosphere of the actual world. You know how the sky is blue? That’s a lot of blue we’re seeing every day. And you know how 71 percent of the earth is water, and water is blue? That, too, is a lot of blue we’re seeing every day.
It may, therefore, be argued that although we don’t acknowledge it, blue is a color we’re naturally acclimatized to. And because people want the experience of the internet, and technology to feel familiar, it’s not surprising that blue is so prevalent in digital design.
The next darkest color to black is blue
This is the blue Google uses for links on its search results pages.
Blue has long been the go-to color for links. But no one can seem to agree on exactly why, and who made that decision.
Internet folklore traces the popularity of links back to the father of the internet, Sir Tim Berners Lee. Some of the earliest pictures of him that feature links on his computer screen show links colored in blue.
But, Berners Lee, himself, has no memory of deciding on the color as the preferred choice for them. Mostly because when he popularized the practice of hyperlinks, he did it in the era of grayscale screens.
The path, therefore, leads us to Mosaic, an early internet browser, whose creators apparently decided to make blue the default color of links, because it was the color closest to black in its contrast to white, thus making it the next most legible color choice for web pages.
Since then, some shade of blue has been a staple of search results pages, and a color most of us probably see on a daily basis.
The only color he could see all of was blue
When Mark Zuckerberg was building Facebook, in the days when he was still working out of a college dorm, the choice to make blue its main color was a no brainer. Mainly, because it wasn’t really a choice.
Zuckerberg is colorblind, unable to see red or green, and so blue is the only color he can fully interpret, which made his decision to make Facebook blue a pretty easy one.
The social network being one of the most popular sites in the world, and surely something most of us look at multiple times a day, has continued the trend of blue being the color we see most often online.
41 shades of blue
Apparently this is your favorite shade of blue. How do I know? Well, nearly a decade ago, Google, which was not exactly considered a purveyor of design, had an inconsistency.
Its homepage featured a button that used one shade of blue, and Gmail featured a button that used another.
They decided to standardize the shade they were using, but which blue were they going to choose?
To find out, they ran a bunch of user tests, testing a number of shades of blue that were almost imperceptibly different. How many blues? 41 to be exact.
As is talked about in the biography, Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!, this story has become something of a legend. A tech company, and a manager, who, rather than trusting the gut of their designers, used data to make a design decision.
I’m not saying it’s good or bad. But, what I am saying is that the winning blue has been one of Google’s main colors ever since.
The Most popular color on the internet
In 2016, designer Paul Hebert did an analysis of the ten most popular sites on the internet, according to Alexa.com, and scraped data about the colors they were using. What he found wasn’t super surprising. The most popular color by far is blue.
Perhaps it is because the sky and sea are blue. Perhaps it’s because one influential person just decided he or she liked the color blue. Whatever the truth is of its origin, blue is the internet, and indeed, the entire world of design’s default color.
It can be inoffensive.
In your face.
Buttoned up and professional.
Warm and inviting.
Cold and alienating.
Vibrant and fresh.
Neutral and not distracting.
And, algorithmically correct.
The color blue is many things. But more than anything else, it is the most popular color on the internet.