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Should links still be underlined and blue?


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#41 quill62

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Posted 31 May 2006 - 09:09 AM

Think of your links as a traffic sign. Traffic signs have specific colors and shapes for a reason.

Stop signs are red and octoganal. If you change the color or shape, it is no longer easily recognized as a sign to stop and a whole bunch of accidents will soon follow.

Caution signs are yellow and diamond shaped. Even though the symbol in the middle changes, we know when we see a yellow diamond shaped sign up ahead that there we should be more aware.

Stick to the standard and you never have to worry whether your links are being recognized as such.

That's my take....

#42 Adrian

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Posted 31 May 2006 - 09:27 AM

Caution signs are yellow and diamond shaped. Even though the symbol in the middle changes, we know when we see a yellow diamond shaped sign up ahead that there we should be more aware.


Well, if you live in America anyway :) I'd be more looking out for a red triangle. But even though I'm not used to the yellow diamond, I'd probably be able to realise it has some meaning..... It stands out and is obviously somehting to pay attention to. The same with links IMHO, the form may vary a bit, but if a link is obviously a link....

#43 ArtistSeries

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 07:30 PM

I agree with the people that said underlined. I think that there should be a hover state and a visited state - these are extra bits of visual information that have a purpose.
This is slightly off-topic...
We have done a lot of mailings and our research showed that certain colours do get clicked more often and a "click me" helps convertion rates.
The colours of the links that received better click rates were strong ones such as red. The colour that received less was green. Our typical mailing sample was over 250 000 for each colour combination over a 9 month period.

I kind of look at this as typical mass-marketing: it's not elegant but it works....

Edited by ArtistSeries, 03 July 2006 - 07:31 PM.


#44 EGOL

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 08:47 PM

OK... I've read this thread a couple of times and there are tons of opinions... now we are hearing a little about analytics.

Who here has changed the color of links on his or her site and then done analytics to see if it made a difference in pageviews or time on site. How much of a difference. It's not about what we think or what looks cool. It's really about how folks engage our sites.

Has anyone else done detailed analytics with results that they are willing to share?

Edited by EGOL, 03 July 2006 - 08:50 PM.


#45 ArtistSeries

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 09:24 PM

I'll elaborate a little more on the email campaigns.
The samples were
1- US males
2- US females
and
3- Answered would gamble in a double opt in list

This was for an online Casino. We send the exact same email wording.
Subject line: {FIRSTNAME}, $30 Guaranteed Entitlement

Two set of creatives were used. One was mostly green/white, the other mostly red/white.
We calculate the surfers that continued once they had reached the landing page to a download page. Green links and or green pages had a low rate, red scored about 15-20% higher in terms of "action".

From this thread, we may explore changing the colour of links on a high traffic website. They are the default ones at the moment (blue/purple). The purpose of the website is to get people in and out quickly, so the results may be of little use for those looking to retain "eyeballs"...

#46 canadianchick

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 10:03 PM

Red vs green - very interesting! Thank you for sharing those results, ArtistSeries. :)

#47 EGOL

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 10:10 PM

ArtistSeries, thank you for sharing that. It sounds like you are paying attention to your user's actions.

#48 ArtistSeries

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 08:04 PM

Egol, our research is rather specific to our industry. Unlike many webmasters, we donít want our surfers to stay long but we do want them to come often (everyday). We have the luxury of sending out a lot of mass mailings. This permits us to just change one variable and see the results. Weíve even researched what names work best in a website. Our user base has been shrinking but is still very respectable.
The only note of caution that I have to emphasize is that our target audience is one that gambles/plays lottery online/or bingo. In other words YMMV.

#49 EGOL

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 01:22 PM

*spoken softly*

There is a lot of opinion in this thread but very little substance (that's an opinion too - lol). Are you building sites to please yourselves or are you building them to serve users or to make a little money? If you are interested in the latter you should code your links to please yourself and then use that as a starting point for improvement.

How many of you have CSS on your site that would enable you to change the colors of your links or other site characteristics by typing a few characters and uploading a single file? You have a fantastic tool at your disposal.

Use it. You can not improve anything unless you change it. Then you should use what you learn to change it again. Repeat that process 100 times.

All you need to do is make a change and then watch to see if your pageviews per visitor goes up or if the paths through your site are modified. This can easily be done by running your log files through a program such as weblogexpert (they have a free copy that will give you nice data and a really nice tool for a little money - and there are many other tools that do this work - some are free on your server's control panel). You might be surprised with the result. You might shoot yourself because you didn't try this sooner.

If you want to get the most out of your website you must do these things. If you don't know how to do them there are folks on this forum who offer such a service. And if you think that you know how to do these things you can probably learn a lot more by working with someone who knows even a little more about them than you do.

One discovery can pay back your investment by over 100 times.

Edited by EGOL, 05 July 2006 - 01:31 PM.


#50 cre8pc

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 02:21 PM

This just out by Jared Spool:

Do Links Need Underlines?

When the designers switch back and forth, between having some links underlined but others not be underlined, that makes even more work for users. Work that doesnít add any real value. We think the visual design element of the underline is not required, but it is cruel to make users work extra hard because you canít decide.



#51 ArtistSeries

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 02:37 PM

I guess heís saying that consistency is the way to go (agreed).


On aspect that surprises me at times is that I prefer "nicer" looking sites that we build, but these are not always the ones that produce better results. We have a client that makes us build "cookie cutter" sites, these have all the same text, features and overall layout. What I consider gaudy will often outperform the more esthetic ones in the short run. It's to the point that I sometimes think that if you stay away from quality, you'll do okay...
As EGOL wrote (if I'm paraphrasing correctly), it's not about what we like but what works.

Edited by ArtistSeries, 05 July 2006 - 02:45 PM.


#52 Jem

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 04:12 PM

I would say it depends on the site and the audience.

My main website which is primarily targeted at other bloggers my age doesn't need blue underlined links because 'they' (my audience) know that text that looks a different colour is a link (even so, I tend to underline mine with a dotted bottom border). On the other hand, if I wrote a website based guide on how to use the Internet for Silver Surfers (for example), I would stick to blue links and purple visited links.

#53 EGOL

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 04:31 PM

How do you know that blue links would not double the number of pageviews on your blog and double the amount of time spent - even by websavvy visitors? Sure they will know that underlined means "link" but maybe blue catches their attention. If you don't try it both ways and measure the result then it is an assumption of user behavior - maybe blue and bold is what you need. I find that most of my assumptions are incorrect. Doubling might be an exaggeration but maybe it would yield 10%. I'd be mighty happy if I could get 10% more user engagement from changing a css file and if we test these things again and again we might find that ten percent here and ten there and maybe the double in sum.

Edited by EGOL, 05 July 2006 - 04:33 PM.


#54 Ruud

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 08:15 PM

I find that most of my assumptions are incorrect.


Isn't that the truth?! You're giving away the golden nugget of usability here. It's probably not that our assumptions are incorrect but that they're based on what we know vs. what "they" know.

Either way, I agree with the "test, test, test" doctrine. For instance, on pages with more than 3 inline links my clickthrough rate went up when I colored visited URLs differently. I was looking into a request from a visitor for that behavior -- and in turn found it supported by many others.

On underlined, blue links I also find it interesting that hugely successful commercial projects such as Google AdSense, Amazon and eBay seem to strongly favor them. I can't help but believe that that is no coincidence.

#55 dgeary9

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 08:45 PM

On underlined, blue links I also find it interesting that hugely successful commercial projects such as Google AdSense, Amazon and eBay seem to strongly favor them. I can't help but believe that that is no coincidence.

At least two of those companies are renowned in web analytics circles for their obsessive testing. Definitely not coincidence.

That said, what works well for them may not work for you. Amazon suceeds while requiring user registration to buy. I have yet to meet another site where that is true - most people see conversion increases of 20%+ by removing the requirement to register, and yet when I suggest this to a new client, 99% of them respond with "but Amazon does it".

Read EGOL's post and then read it again. If more people followed his advice I'd be a lot less busy :D.

#56 EGOL

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 10:47 PM

You might be a lot more busy. Anyone who uses analytics combined with reflection and testing probably learns quickly the treasures that it can yield. Once that is seen they will be hungry for more - because they realize the value of additinal knowledge, different tools, a fresh set of eyes or an objective point of view.

You don't know anything about who visits your website until you run the logs. Until you do that you are only guessing and your guesses will be wrong most of the time.

#57 sanity

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 11:04 PM

EGOL you're posts are great.

Would you mind sharing with us if you use any other analytics programs than weblogexpert ?

#58 EGOL

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 08:03 AM

I have used whatever free analytics that was installed on my server since my first week as a webmaster. I have also used free tools such as hitcounter and extremetracking.com These provide very basic data.

However, once I started using weblogexpert I found that the power of computer processing and custom query multiplies the information yield. I have tried a couple of other programs but come back to this one - because it is easy for me to understand and customize.

I spend about 30 minutes to one hour per day using it to learn how new pages are performing (rankings are important but the logs give you info about KW pull - which for one of my sites changes daily) and how people are engaging my site. This amount of time is probably overkill but I love the data and the information that it yields. It helps me learn about the people who visit my website. The better I understand them the better job I will do as a webmaster. I want to know where they are from, what they are looking for, how they found me, what parts of my site most strongly engage them, what takes their attention when they land on my site. Log analysis informs my content development and my SEO efforts.

I know enough about the subject that I can teach other people how to use these tools to improve their sites and charge for that service (and have done that a couple of times - not because I am expert in log analysis, but because I am a good teacher and these people heard me talk about running my logs then bugged me to help them get started - I would rather run websites than sell my services).

Recently, I decided to try the services of an analytics professional because I have always found that I learn the most when I share ideas with someone else who is enthusiastic about the subject that interests me. In just a few hours I discovered that this person thinks differently than I do, uses different tools and has experience and knowledge that greatly exceeds mine. It was a very smart thing to do. I am going to learn a lot.

No matter how much you know about something you can learn a lot from someone else - even if their knowledge is equal to yours - because they probably know different things. However, if you already know a little bit about something and then have access to an expert - that is when you get maximum benefit.

My advice on analytics... get a program, use it yourself until you think that you know a lot about your site. Then get an expert to help you understand and apply what you have learned for profit.

#59 Jem

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 02:36 PM

How do you know that blue links would not double the number of pageviews on your blog and double the amount of time spent - even by websavvy visitors?

Because I've used blue links before and noticed no overall difference (and I watch my logs like a hawk.) In fact, some of my visitors went so far as to tell me that they felt patronised because I was presenting them with the basic blue links. On the other hand, I have a website for less web-savvy users and since changing the links to blue I have noticed increased clickage (did I just make up a new word?)

Of course, this is purely based on stats gathered from my own websites with what is generally a loyal userbase who know where my links are anyway.

Edited by Jem, 06 July 2006 - 02:42 PM.


#60 EGOL

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 03:18 PM

Because I've used blue links before and noticed no overall difference (and I watch my logs like a hawk.)


Great!

On the other hand, I have a website for less web-savvy users and since changing the links to blue I have noticed increased clickage (did I just make up a new word?)


:) ... love the term, nice!

#61 Jem

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 03:39 PM

@Egol: I'm glad you think it's great, I think my partner and friends (even those with websites of their own) find it obsessive.

#62 sanity

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 05:32 PM

Another through provoking post EGOL. I think one of the biggest mistakes we can learn in life is that we know everything we need to know.

I downloaded and installed weblogexpert yesterday and am liking it a lot. I've also just started trialling ClickTracks Hosted and am really liking it.

Your postr has inspired me to delve into all this deeper.

Edited by sanity, 06 July 2006 - 05:32 PM.


#63 EGOL

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 08:33 PM

Thanks, makes me glad that I spent the time to compose those posts.

Try this... pick a favorite page on your website, then create a filter to include only the entries into that page. When you see the keywords that are delivering traffic, go to the SERPs and see how you are ranking for those terms. Pick one where you are in position #5 - #10. Reoptimize that page to make it more relevant for that KW. Try to turn a trickle of traffic into a steady flow - or write a nice article about that topic and post it on its own page.... watch what happens in the SERPs. You might get a double listing if both of your pages rank in top ten.

#64 sanity

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 10:27 PM

That's a good place to start - thanks EGOL.

In light of all the great information imparted here I've created a thread, Analysing Your Data, how do you do it? which I thought may be a great place to talk more about how to analyse our log files and test changes.



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