Links on websites

December 03, 2003 | View Comments (24) | too hard

As designers we can understand the need to find new and creative ways to present information on the web. However, some sites are beginning to take this to an extreme with links. Before, links were special because they were easily found on a site. Now sometimes the only time you can find a link is to hover over a paragraph or something. Also why has everyone stopped using the a:visited feature in CSS? On sites where there are a lot of links it is very useful for users to see which links they have already clicked on. Nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a link and seeing that you have already visited that page 10 times. brandmedicines.com

If you are going to underline links on your site (which you should) then make sure they stay underlined, whether they are visited or not. If you are underlining abbrevations and acronyms then use a dotted border or maybe change the background color.

The beauty of webpages are that they are interactive because of hyperlinks. Don't make them hard to find.

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I don't think that using a:visited is always appropriate. Sometimes you may have a link that leads to a page that is dynamic in it's content, like "Archive", a blog or "Inbox". Making the link change would tell the person that they don't need to go to that link because the information hasn't changed.

However I do like several of the designs at css zen garden, like http://www.csszengarden.com/?cssfile=/052/052.css&page=1 which use line-through to denote previously visited pages.

Posted by: Tanny O'Haley at December 4, 2003 06:29 PM

Good point Tammy. In this case then I am assuming it would be appropriate to make a class for those type of links so that there look does not change.

Posted by: The Scholar at December 4, 2003 07:55 PM

And just to point out that we do not change the color of our main sections on simpleydone (about us, contact, portfolio) for the very reasons that you mention Tanny. We wish for these links to always remain distinct and therefore the colors stay the same no matter if they have been clicked on or not.

Posted by: The Scholar at December 4, 2003 09:55 PM

I've dropped off using :visited mostly because of my frustration with the :active designation, whose implementation seems generally capricious... of course, this guilt-by-association just occured to me. Maybe it's time I give poor :visited a break.

: )

Aside from that, though, I have two observations : first... underlining links using CSS is just plain awful. If I wanted my links underlined, I would leave the underlining on in my browser. Declaring underlining in links using CSS is tantamount to saying that my preferences aren't important ... which just makes me angry. I don't want linking on, because it makes reading words with important descenders impossible. Moreover, it makes ignoring links and reading the text difficult.

Which brings me to my second point: subtlety in linking. I believe links are an important (defining, even) part of the web experience... but links which scream for attention at the expense of readability only add to the a-contextual nature of web content today.


I _want_ people to read... so I make it easy for them to read: short paragraphs, reasonable widths, good (albeit not stark) contrast, scanable headers and bullets... and subtle (read: ignorable) linking decoration.

Posted by: Silus Grok at December 5, 2003 02:22 AM

I'm torn on this one. In one respect I don't like a visual trainwreck of colours breaking my reading rhythm, but playing find the link is more annoying.

I get round this by making the default link colour kind of subtle but as you :hover over a given paragraph, it's links change colour. It's just a case of messing with the CSS and lots of pseudo-selectors.

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