Designer Paul Herbert was curious to see what color the most popular sites on the internet used. So he wrote a PHP script that scraped the ten most visited sites on the internet and recorded all the colors used on the home pages and style sheets. These were the top ten sites ranked by Alexa.com, which included biggies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. Blue was the overwhelming winner, followed by gray. According to Wired, there are twice as many shades of blue as shades of yellow and red, and three times as many shades of blue for every shade of green.
“Once I have the data [of 100 to 1,000 more sites] I hope to use it to answer some deep questions I have about color and design,” Herbert tells Wired. “Like, whether this is an intrinsic aspect of human nature, or whether it varies across cultures and times.”
Market studies have shown that blue invokes qualities of credibility, professionalism, and cleanliness while appealing to both men and women. Assessments of the color show that it makes people feel calm and tranquil, since we associate blue with calming visual memories, like that of the ocean and sky. But colors also create a physiological effect because of their relationship to light, which stirs different emotional triggers in the brain.
And the digital world is especially into blue lighting. Studies show that cells in the brain called dinoflagellates are uniquely sensitive to blue light, which in turn increases the release of cortisol in the brain. Researchers have begun to use blue light treatments with people who have conditions like bulimia, depression, and anxiety. But if you’re exposed to blue lighting before you sleep — or, your usual nightly habit of scrolling through your Facebook on a smartphone right before bed — then you can delay the onset of rapid eye movement by 30 minutes. That’s one situation where looking at blue can make you feel blue as well.