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The Value Of Good Old-Fashioned Blue Links

Hypertext has evolved a lot, but basic user-friendliness is still necessary.

The Value Of Good Old-Fashioned Blue Links

[Image: Flickr user Glyn Lowe Photoworks]

Should you design your site’s aesthetic around the ideas that all hyperlinks should be blue and underlined? A new post over on Search Engine Land points out a few reminders for creating links that offer the best user experience, including making them blue and underlined.

Formatting your site’s links isn’t just about the color, but also how they function. If you’ve ever helped someone without much technical experience navigate the Internet, you understand what Erin Everhart means about users feeling safe with the back button. Links that open new windows or new tabs can be disorienting for some, or just annoying for advanced users. The back button is a linear guiding rail in their navigation for many novice users. To some, the web moves forward or backward, and anything else makes your site hard to use.

Marco Arment recently weighed in on opening links in new windows—spoiler—he hates them. It started with him calling out The Verge for its use of new window links, primarily for what he suspects as a way to keep visitors on the site longer. For tasks related to banking or commerce, Arment says a new window might be acceptable, worth the interruption, but for almost everything else, using target="_blank" isn't okay.

What Everhart really stresses is knowing your site’s visitors. Is it a mainstream site or is it more technical? Is it all text articles, or is there another reason someone may need a new window? Also keep in mind that even though there wasn’t a specific reason Sir Tim Berners-Lee chose blue as the default link color, it’s one of the colors that most people can distinguish the best, even if they’re colorblind.