Tim Priebe

That website’s colors look terrible!

Colored pencilsSometimes websites look awful. You’ve probably looked at a website and thought the colors were a poor choice. Or maybe you have worked with a web designer and the colors on your site didn’t turn out exactly like you wanted. While it may or may not be the designer’s fault, things are not entirely in his or her control.

Inexpensive monitors (the ones most consumers purchase) each come off the assembly line with slight differences in color. And even after that, the color on those monitors will drift over time. On most monitors, the drift is so small and the life of the monitor short enough, that it just doesn’t matter in day to day use. But when you’re approving designs for your business, that small difference will seem bigger to you.

So there are slight variations just from monitor to monitor, and that’s an unavoidable fact. While your designer can (and should) calibrate their monitors, that won’t let them see exactly what it looks like on your monitor, or anyone else’s, for that matter. All calibration does is give them a good average of what the site will look like on most monitors.

If you are about to embark on some web design work on your computer, or if you’d just like better color, there is an affordable option. While monitor calibrators used to be much more expensive, you can get one like the Spyder 2 Express or the Pantone Huey MEU101 for between $50 and $100. Although I’m not a graphic designer myself, I do use the Spyder 2 Express and calibrate my monitor on a fairly regular basis.

Another, less expensive option, is to simply check your website on a few friends’ computers. Or, failing that, email them a link and ask them if they could check themselves. Get some feedback on the website color. Your monitor may be way off, or it could be that you were absolutely right, and the color is horrible.

Either way, don’t judge your website by its appearance on a single monitor.


  1. I would just like to say “amen” to this post. There have been several times when I have been working on a website and the designer will walk over to my desk and say, “Woah! That looks way different than it does on my monitor.” Most of the time it is fine, because our designers create sites that look good even if the colors are slightly different than what they thought. However, it is important for a designer to realize this and take it into account when designing for the web.

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