The Drive of Colors | Targetprocess - Visual management software

I've explored once how software products appeal to our emotions, and how this emotional imprint affects our willingness to spend time with a software product or an app. Why should this utterly non-technical stuff matter at all to those of us who create software? Emotions and personal perceptions play a far larger role that one can imagine when people decide to go with a product or not. A software may seem a perfect fit to the rational side if it does what we need, but in the world where many products come with about the same set of features, it's those several tiny grains of sand that could make the scales tip towards the very final "yes" or "no".

Let me give a very personal example. Recently we released Targetprocess 3.0 (that's the  project management software that we develop). The new Targetprocess is so visual, customizable and flexible; it caters to each and every need in project management with any development process. Things that we bring to the table with Targeprocess 3 are awesome. But — I have a confession to make — I still continue to use Targetprocess v. 2.0 for my own tasks. The reason is simple: I really don't like grey as the background color. Compare this, as in version 2.0 (click to enlarge):

TP 2-3

and this, as in Targetprocess v.3:

Targetprocess 3

I was worried if something's wrong with me and researched on how colors influence our productivity. The difference that proved to be heart-wrenching is in the background color. It turned out that I'm used to having white as a background more than I was able to realize consciously. In Targetprocess 3, the background color is grey-ish, and the appearance of cards can be customized, with mashups, but by default a card is white against the grey background (and we often have the cards colored into a darker shade of grey against a lighter grey background). It's too much of grey to me. Grey is a neutral color, and it appears that if this neutrality is in the background all the time, then I don't feel comfortable inside this UI, because the neutrality has no drive, and it doesn't encourage me to stay in the board view (or a timeline view, or a list view) for too long. I feel safer and more comfortable in the familiar reality of the white background with greyish cards for some reason. It could be linked to the fact that when we start something new, and we are particularly inspired about something, we're talking about the color "white". We have whiteboards on the walls. We have white sheets of paper, not grey. The whiteness is encouraging, it says — go ahead, play with this thing, change it! At least, that's what comes to my mind as I try to dissect these feelings.

Grey and various shades of grey are trending. This color is generally unobtrusive and just neutral, as a smile of a stranger. I have nothing against a tinge of grey in a menu, but solid grey background makes me strain myself more than needed for the work. I want my favourite tool to encourage me and energize me with the freshness and newness of the white. Grey, however, seems to be draining the productive energy from me, not sustaining it. I'm not sure if this is only me, perhaps someone else would have a different perception of this color. I'm certain, though, that if I'm supposed to be mentally sharp, as opposed to spending time leisurely, the solid grey background is taxing. A piece of grey ingrained into white once in a while would be OK. But not solid grey.

Related articles:

Do You Speak Human, Software?

Imperatives in User Experience Design

The Paradigm of Project Management Tools

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