We create patient-friendly apps that are accessible to anyone, regardless of nationality or disability. The role of color in app design is a combination of art and science, and requires cross-team collaboration between design and localization. There are many factors to consider when determining which colors to choose – we cover a few of them in this post. 

Cultural connotations

The symbolic meaning of colors varies between different cultures across the world, due to a range of influences such as politics, history, and religion. Color associations are often strongly ingrained in our collective subconscious.

For example, in the West, we are familiar with white as a color of purity, cleanliness, and simplicity. It is traditional for brides to wear white dresses, and the symbol of peace is often a white dove. However, in China and some other Asian countries, white is linked to death and bad luck, and is often used at funerals.

Purple represents wealth in the Middle East, perhaps because it used to be so expensive to produce purple fabric. 

In fact, purple has become synonymous with royalty in Europe and the US. In many cultures, however, purple is the color of mourning or death (e.g., Thailand and Brazil), and in Japan it represents danger.

It is also worth considering how many colors to include on a screen. In Asia users tend to like a busy screen with lots of colors, but in the West there is a general preference for a cleaner, tidier look.

How are you feeling today?

Well, this could depend on where you live in the world! There is a colorful spectrum of idioms related to health and emotions. Here are some personal favorites:

to have the blues
to be in the pink
être jaune d’envie
sich schwarz ärgern
a vedea roşu în fața ochilor
ficar verde de raiva
Literal translation
to be yellow with envy
to get angry black
to see red in front of your eyes
to turn green with rage
to feel sad
to be in very good health
to feel envious
to be hopping mad
to be extremely angry
to be terribly angry

Color in health-related apps

In China green is often used in health-related apps as it is associated with health and harmony. However, in the US, green tends to be linked more closely to environmental topics or herbal medicine. In the UK, many health apps have red heart symbols and various shades of blue, perhaps due to the International Red Cross organization. Doctors often wear blue in the UK, symbolizing trust and calm. Pink tends to be associated with women in Europe and the US, and is often found in apps related to gynecology.

User experience considerations in app design

According to the NHS, around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have a form of color vision deficiency, and color vision can deteriorate with age. The most common deficiency leads to difficulties distinguishing between shades of red, yellow, and green. Therefore, if call-to-action buttons or error messages are denoted in red, for example, the meaning might not be completely clear to everyone. Designers can include comments or instructions for clarity; the use of patterns and textures for contrast in images can also help users.

Designing apps with users in mind takes time and thought, but is worth the investment in order to optimize UX. Our ultimate aim is to make patients feel included, wherever they are in the world.

To find out how we can help you to create and localize your own patient-friendly app, get in touch here.


By Cathy Spinage

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