Make those links clickable, please!

December 4, 2010

Topics: Usability.

Some time ago, I ran across an interesting post on Clients from Hell:

Website user who couldn’t find an article emailed our help desk. We sent him the link to the content he couldn’t find.

Client: “Please change the letters in your email to blue, so I can click the link.”

Clients from Hell

While this was intended to ridicule a misunderstanding — that the client couldn’t click the link unless the letters were blue — it does stand to illustrate a real problem with usability. Even though there may be relatively few people who actually experience the exact problem above, there are undoubtedly many people who could fail to realize that text is a link when it doesn’t conform to their expectations.

It’s not just whether or not your links are blue — there’s also an issue with internal consistency. If you’ve made a decision that links will be something other than blue, people can learn that. But you may want to consider being internally consistent with that change — I’ve seen many web sites where different areas of the page change the coloration of links: sidebar links are gray, body links orange, footer links black, etc.

Regions of the page specifically dedicated to navigation can frequently get away with alternate appearances, but having a different link scheme all around the site is very likely to just confuse. Inconsistent coloration, inconsistent use of text underlining, or minimal hover or focus changes can all serve to reduce the usability of your web site in significant ways.

Do links need to be blue? No, not really. If you insist on always having links blue you’re going to limit your design options in more ways than are really likely to be beneficial. However, if blue links won’t compromise the design, there’s really no reason not to use them.

Keeping basic usability in mind at every stage of design is just a good idea — at least, if you’re going for a successful web site!

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8 Comments to “Make those links clickable, please!”

  1. I’ve been a web designer for year and never stopped to wonder about which color links received more clicks. I’ve always gone with a color that is high contrast compered to the rest of the text. Perhaps I’ll try some a, b testing and see if blue links increase my click thru rates.

  2. Good point, although we get clients always asking for the links to be in black, or orange etc. We tell them its no problem, its just the industry standard for links is blue.

    However all of the above said, I dont think one of our links on any of our sites pages are blue just all underlined.

  3. Having the links blue make it easier usability wise. Not a necessity but definitely something that most are used to seeing on a site when it comes to links. One of the most important think is to ensure that your visitor has a great user experience that keeps them coming back.

  4. Links don’t need to be blue but people still like them to be blue :). And it’s going to be like for some more time, I’m sure. May be it will be good to ask clients about their preferences before starting the work and explain them your opinion?

  5. I don’t think links need to be in blue, sometimes blue links would spoil the design of the site, though links definately do need to be underlined.

    All of my links on my site http://www.webbgear.co.uk are at least underlined.

    David.

  6. To put it bluntly, Black Rhino – yes, you were wrong. Not necessarily in your disagreement with the appropriateness of blue, underlined links in that particular design — there exists a possibility that blue, underlined links aren’t appropriate for some web site. Having not seen the design, I can’t really state anything specific about that situation.

    However, to refuse absolutely to use blue links with an underline is sheer idiocy. You may be willing to sacrifice usability and accessibility in your designs — that’s your choices, I guess — but I would not do that do my own clientele.

  7. Funny thing is I had a client like this. I was doing their website and he kept asking me to make the his links blue instead of a color that went along with the design. Now keep in mind he also meant the main links! I had them all nice and decorative and he wanted BLUE! Even better… Blue with the UNDERLINE! It wasn’t fun arguing with him, but I told him I refused to put something in my portfolio that had anything with blue links.

    I mean am I wrong?

  8. For better accessibility as well as usability, I strongly suggest keeping the underline on text links in main content (do not remove in CSS). Also, the link text color should be much different than the regular text. Dark blue text links with no underline with black text is difficult to notice.