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Should links still be underlined and blue?


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 01:31 PM

I look for it when I test sites because its considered standard practice, but I've been keeping an eye out for updates on the blue/purple/underline links practice.

Jakob Nielsen pushes for blue link colors and purple visited. I personally use a mix of underlined links and non-underlined unless moused over, but there has to be something else that signals a link if there is no underline. For example, if page titles use the same font size, face and color as links, then there is no way to know if it is clickable or a page title or heading.

More recently, there is this:

What color should you use for visited links?

Have any of you come to any conclusions or practices on your own, either as an Internet user, designer or site owner?

#2 ewo_2006

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 01:37 PM

In my opinion, the convention of blue links should be preferred, but once the number of links in a particular paragagraph get too dense, then it's time either to curb the number of links, or make them hovers. I go for a lighter blue for visited links.

#3 Adrian

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 01:54 PM

I don't see any reason for links to be the standard blue colour, in fact, the standard styling tends to make a site look amateurish in my eyes.

Very few sites really use the standard colours for links, so people are not expecting them to be blue and purple, so I don't see it matters.

I like to keep underline on, unless it's obviousy because it looks like a button or a clear nav bar or something, but I don't care about the text colour.

Edited by Adrian, 15 May 2006 - 02:05 PM.


#4 sonjay

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 04:01 PM

I dislike the look of the standard underline. What I frequently do is set links to have a bottom border -- usually either in a fairly light color and/or dotted or dashed. That way the links have a visual cue that they're links without the underline being visually overwhelming.

#5 eKstreme

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 04:09 PM

I've read many many times that the standard blue links increase click through rates, sometimes massively. I can dig up the references for that...

#6 bwelford

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 04:41 PM

I've seen that too, eKstreme, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

It's the usual balance of what you win versus what you lose. Designers are typically moving ahead of their audiences and sometimes the reasons for that are not particularly strong.

Whatever you do I think links should be obvious without having to move your mouse over them. Equally non-links should obviously be non-links without having to move your mouse over them. :)

#7 Respree

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 04:49 PM

I think the basic premise for the originating blue and underlined technique was to send the message that links should be both obvious and intuitive. As long as the spirit of that original thought is maintained, I don't think it matters much what color it is (providing it has the appropriate amount of contrast against the background color used).

Personally, I like a high contrast different color (than main text) and underlined (different color for the visual indicator and underlined for our color blind friends). I think both aid in usability. Too often I see dark blue (not underlined) against black text (which looks 'close' in color when my eyes are tired) and sometimes miss the fact its actually a link.

Edited by Respree, 22 May 2006 - 10:44 PM.


#8 AbleReach

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 06:09 PM

I agree with Respree, and I wouldn't be shocked overmuch if eKstreme is right about standard-looking links.
I agree with Adrian that a lot of underlined links close together in a paragraph can look cluttered.

I think that sometimes stylishly clean visual design trumps usability, and that's a shame. On the other hand, we're only a few years out from those years of patterned backgrounds, clipart, and blinky, spinny whatnots. More recently the web has taken a strong sway into minimalist pages with tiny fonts very few graphics. Amidst the relief of a lack of clutter are new choices, expanded by the flexibility of CSS. Choice is the operative word. We weigh personal preference, studies and educated instinct, and we go forward.

For myself, I don't like underlines that are NOT links, and I don't like it when links are not a different color from what's around them.

#9 ewo_2006

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 06:13 PM

I don't see any reason for links to be the standard blue colour, in fact, the standard styling tends to make a site look amateurish in my eyes

Call me old-fashioned, but I feel quite strongly that links should follow a convention, in much the same way as footnotes, citations and bibliographical references follow a convention in, say, academic journals.

#10 eKstreme

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 06:30 PM

For reference:

Conversion: Make Your Links Work Harder, by Dan Thies


What to Look for in an SEO Firm by Shari Thurow. Search for "Click Me"

#11 A.N.Onym

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 06:52 PM

I too think that blue underlined linkes are preferrable in a design that wouldn't mind that.
If you have a colorful design, changing the link color shouldn't hurt.
If you make the underlining dotted, that shouldn't hurt much, provided the links are noticeable.
However, all these changes will make the links less visible.

I myself prefer blue links with dotted bottom border. It makes the links less obtrusive and perhaps they look less familiar. I am sure some people are tired from seeing blue underlined linkes for ages (that doesn't mean they won't click on them, though).

#12 Xenith

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 09:38 PM

For some reason I have gone full circle on the idea of blue links, loved them at first, hated them and now I love them again. They definately increase CTR and Page Views in a site.

Also re:underline, some browsers like camino override the underline, so I set all a attributes to text-decoration:underline - for any mac users out there or other with substantial mac community sites it might be worth adding to your css.

Personally I am really getting back to the whole grass roots of the internet, simple sites that follow convention, why? Because they are simply more effective. (Plus my design skills leave a little to be desired - to say the least).

Retro is cool, as long as it's not blinking at me (like those damn clickable smiles, lol). I have also found that on slick sites that are pretty on the eye, page views are less because people are too busy admiring and forget what they are doing. Of course it all depends on the industry and what your competing against. But give me a mom and pop style site anyday.

It's a shame the only people that really care about the design are usually the clients, people using the site, usually couldn't care less as long as everything's there and simple, easy to use and cheap. Of cource there are exceptions, some big ticket items for instance.

It's very easy to loose the message with too much design.

#13 A.N.Onym

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 10:03 PM

I too think that 'less is more'. My belief is largely based on 'Don't make me think'.
Every extra element distracts the visitor from the content and the intent to find something useful.
In this sense, anything other than 'blue, underlined' makes a visitor think 'Why is this so?', 'Is this really a link?', etc.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 15 May 2006 - 10:04 PM.


#14 bwelford

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 07:20 AM

As I've said elsewhere, Small Is Beautiful.

#15 eron19

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 09:30 AM

just underlined imo

#16 Black_Knight

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 10:03 AM

As a general principle, I will prefer to offer blue, underlined links to visitors. However, that is not in the least an entrenched position, and it will usually be the ability to properly engage the intended market (prospective customers) that makes the decision for me.

For some markets, plain blue links will seem too unexciting and bland. Perhaps even too 'safe' and boring. Adrain makes himself a prime example of the type of customer who will be better engaged (and thus more likely converted) by a website that pushes design foremost.

For some groups, it even pays to slip in the odd "Easter Egg" link, by deliberately making one or two links harder to spot. It can catch the attention, and be remembered, and that's good.

However, for a general audience, or for even less techie than average groups, I will always prefer to have instantly recognizable links where they matter.

If you force most people to think too hard about using your site, the thing they will think about is how much easier it is to use other sites.

#17 fisicx

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 05:36 AM

Just to make sure I'm on the right track here:

Blue and underlined for those links within the main content and the navigation styled otherwise?

I'm not too fussed what you do with your links - as long as they are sufficiently differentiated from the rest of the page I'm happy.

But it was interesting to read the Dan Thies report...

Going to tweak my CSS and see what happens (and such is the joy of CSS - two lines of code and the whole site is updated).

#18 A.N.Onym

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 05:57 AM

Yup, navigation can be styled differently.
However, I suspect that even if navigation has blue and underlined links (at least secondary navigation), it should increase click-throughs. It shouldn't look much appealing, though.

#19 fisicx

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 07:07 AM

Are we all going to head back to our own sites and experiment?

Or are we going to nod sagely and leave then they are because 'that's they way I like 'em'?

#20 A.N.Onym

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 07:36 AM

There is no yes and no answer to your question, fisicx.

It largely depends on the site audience and the site.

As I have more or less come to a final decision for my site, I am going to nod sagely and say 'That's the way I like em' - but those are not standard blue colored links, too :)

#21 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 08:08 AM

I actually DID make a change to one site today, adding a light blue underline on my content links. Although the links were already bold and blue, which made them fairly obvious - so was bold text. I hadn't really thought about it extensively, but on seeing a link sitting right next to some bolded text which WASN'T a link, I had to make a serious doubletake...there was no differentiation.

Important consideration - the need to make certain that links look unique when compared to any other styled text!

-joe

#22 bearmugs

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 12:59 PM

I am very much for the underlined links, and much prefer blue for links.
I feel visited links should have a contrasting color. I want to see clearly where I've been and where I still have not visited on the site.
My standard is link=blue, active link=purple, visited(read) link = red

Because there are so many different colors and backgrounds on web sites, it's not possible to establish an exact standard but I would suggest CONTRASTING COLORS for read/unread
John EH!

#23 Aaron Pratt

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 10:59 PM

I would think the safest colors to use would be what is seen in the most popular operating system. Humans like what is familiar.

Windows XP?

#24 fisicx

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 06:02 AM

And therein lies the rub Bearmugs,

I tend to regard visited links as showing up purple.

And by using blue, red and purple you don't leave a lot of options for the rest of the page - by that I mean all the headers and other bits and bobs I want to colour in.

#25 Fabius

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 12:00 AM

Not necessarily blue. Any color matching the theme of the site is fine. Underline (dotted line these days) is a must anyway.

Edited by Fabius, 22 May 2006 - 12:00 AM.


#26 fisicx

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 02:15 AM

If the colour matches the themse of the site, won't it blend in and become part of the theme?

And I really can't stand dotted undeline - it doesn't work for me at all.

#27 A.N.Onym

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 02:45 AM

fisics, what exactly turns you off in the dotted underline?
Could you please provide some insight here, as blue dotted bottom border is one of my favorites in designing links?

Thanks :)

#28 Adrian

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 04:06 AM

Have to say I'm not so keen on the dotted line look either. It...... just doesn't look right?!

#29 A.N.Onym

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 04:30 AM

Yup, the only drawback I see in a blue dotted underline is that it is not a solid line that everyone got used to.
Maybe I'll just stick to solid underlining and forget about this :)

#30 bwelford

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 04:41 AM

I think it's interesting, fisicx and Adrian, that you've both come out against a dashed underline as a signal of a link. Of course you've both been doing this a long time and have lived with the standard as the only way before CSS allowed us to do a myriad of things with links.

I use underline as the basic way of going since in the middle of a body of text, the link is often a bit like a footnote for someone to check if they're really interested. However I would assume that most would read the whole paragraph before going back to check the link. In some ways it illustrates a slight paradox of putting a link within a paragraph. You can't follow the link and read the rest of the paragraph at the same time. The underlined link is just like that small superscript number you'll see in a learned paper which indicates you'll find a numbered footnote at the bottom of the page.

For someone relatively new to all this, I believe my underlined dashed links will indicate just the amount of importance I usually want them to feel about the link that takes them somewhere else versus continuing to read the paragraph. :)

<edit>I wrote this at the same time as you were adding your's, A.N.Onym. I agree on the 'getting used to' bit.</edit>

Edited by bwelford, 22 May 2006 - 04:43 AM.


#31 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 04:46 AM

I have to say that I like the dotted underline - but I don't generally use it for links. Instead, I use it as a signifier for abbreviations and acronyms. I tend to feel that the dotted underline is a great signifier for "there's something special about this but it's not actually a link" :)

Of course, I can't STAND the dashed underline - and since IE doesn't replaces dotted borders with dashes...

#32 A.N.Onym

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 04:49 AM

Bah!

We had dotted borders between text blocks on our site.
One day, our designer added special <div> elements to introduce dotted graphical borders. She said she doesn't like the way default dotted border looked in IE.

I'd just stay with the default CSS dotted border, though :)

Edited by A.N.Onym, 22 May 2006 - 06:45 AM.


#33 Adrian

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 06:34 AM

I don't necessarily mind dotted borders on a site, jsut not as udnerline for links....
As with Joe, I've seen them more often applied to abbreviations and acronyms and so don't expect them to be a link as such.

#34 fisicx

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 07:14 AM

Same here. Dots/dashes are fine but not for links - don't think they look right.

Just my opinion though.

#35 fisicx

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 02:26 AM

Had another think about this.

It should be quite clear from the style adopted as to what is a link. Underlined blue is the 'standard' but I don't loose to much sleep over the alternatives (see this forum for at least three different versions).

A dotted line however indicates that there is 'something to do' but that it is not as important as a naviagtion link. I tend to view them as 'additional information' links that lead to an explanation of an acronym or abreviation or a description of a technical term.

Edited by fisicx, 23 May 2006 - 02:27 AM.


#36 bwelford

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 06:23 AM

Yes, but, fisicx. That's why I think underlined dashed links are OK. I'm not a fanatic about this, but I do wonder how we all handle links in a body of text.

Do we immediately click and then either have to close a window or use the back button to return to where we were. Or do we rather note the link but continue reading the paragraph.

Then we get to the 'natural break' in the page and decide to check a particular link. At this point when looking back over the text, a very clear link may be in order. So the solid underlining is better. But as you passed the link the first time, I prefer that myattention is not too distracted from the main flow of content.

Clearly this is a matter for individual preference so it depends on the audience. Perhaps we should have had a poll on this topic. ;)

Edited by bwelford, 23 May 2006 - 06:24 AM.


#37 rynert

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 06:30 AM

Do we immediately click and then either have to close a window or use the back button to return to where we were. Or do we rather note the link but continue reading the paragraph.

That is what I sometimes grapple with - do I link to another page within the site that expands on the subject in question from within the body, or do I put a set of links at the end of the page ' For more information on widgets >>' etc

If I put the link in the body then a new window is annoying.. a pop-up is annoying, using the same window could also be annoying - or do people expect this and not mind using the back button to return?

#38 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 07:49 AM

That's why I think underlined dashed links are OK. I'm not a fanatic about this, but I do wonder how we all handle links in a body of text.


Personally, I always open the link immediately but in a background tab - but I know that users who are using browsers capable of that kind of behavior are a significant minority since IE doesn't have them.

Generally, I feel that it's useful to have the link in context for reference, and there's really no reason not to repeat it at the bottom of the page if you feel that's useful - just provide a references block at the end of the document.

I don't see any reason this needs to be an "either/or" question.

As for disruption in the flow of reading? I've never found that a reasonable portrayal of links is disruptive - links which change font size on :hover, or flip between bold/normal/italic are annoying, because they cause the overall text to move around. If links are a different size than the rest of the text or have poor contrast with the background, that's disruptive. Dotted or solid underline, however, doesn't bother me at all. I only choose the solid underline as a normal preference because I think of the dotted underline as associated with something else - even so, I have certainly broken that rule.

If I put the link in the body then a new window is annoying.. a pop-up is annoying, using the same window could also be annoying - or do people expect this and not mind using the back button to return?

I think that the normal expectation is for a page to open in the same window - however, there are occasions when I have found, due to habit, that I expect particular pages to open in new windows.

I certainly dislike popups and new windows, but in general I'm not too particular about how a page which I requested is delivered to me, as long as the person hasn't done anything stupid like disabled menus, scrollbars, resizing, etc., for the new window.

Key words here though: page I REQUESTED...there's never anything I like about an unrequested page. Period.

#39 Ruud

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 06:16 PM

I like blue non-decorated text links. Find them looking nicer and calmer in text than underlined ones where it just happens to add too much emphasis at the wrong places :D

Personally I am really getting back to the whole grass roots of the internet, simple sites that follow convention


I hear you.

On a couple of recent sites I did I've simply left styling links alone, leaving it to the default browser settings. The user is already familiar with his/her own browser and the styles it produces - even if they're not aware it is their browser doing so.

Since a little over a year I've been dealing with a number of certainly not dumb seniors (50-plussers) and my interaction with them has certainly changed my outlook on how a site could look and how it should look. A good number of them are a prime example why the call to action "click here" is effective.

One of the things I can certainly recommend to any web developer or designer is to become involved, if only once, with the conversion side of a site. It really gives you a whole different perspective on what you can do with a site and what you probably should do.

#40 TheManBehindTheCurtain

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 08:21 PM

One problem with blue by itself with no underline: not enough contrast to stand out for many viewers, and for color-blind users, forget about seeing anything at all.



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