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Re: [Moderator Action] links

From: Ian B. Jacobs <ij@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 11:34:27 -0400
Message-ID: <3D1C8203.6010307@w3.org>
To: Clubb Anna Contractor USTC <Anna.Clubb@hq.transcom.mil>
CC: "'site-comments@w3.org'" <site-comments@w3.org>

Clubb Anna Contractor USTC wrote:
> Where can I find the out the correct way to display links on a page. i.e.
> underline, highlight.

Hi Anna,

Your question points to a number of issues:

a) What is the recommended way for authors to specify
    styles in a document?

    W3C recommends the use of style sheets (CSS or XSL).
    Visit http://www.w3.org/Style/

b) What conventions are there for the display of
    links?

    Jakob Nielsen pointed to "non-standard" link display
    as a big mistake in Web design in 1996 [1]. I am too lazy
    to go find data to back this up, but traditionally
    text links are displayed visually in blue, underlined.
    The color  changes (typically to purple) for recently
    visited links.

    Personally, I get confused when underlined text on the
    Web is not a link.

    You will find many different presentations of links at the
    W3C Web site (including different colors and without
    underlines).

c) Are the styles I propose in my documents certain to
    be the ones the user views?

    No, for a variety of reasons:
      - The user's environment may not have the resources
        you do or expect them to have (e.g., different
        operating system, mobile device, etc.)

      - The user may not be able to see or hear the
        styles you intend.

      - The user's preferences (e.g., for colors and font
        styles) may override your styles.

    The Web Accessibility Initiative supports the idea that
    user agents should support the author's proposed styles,
    but that the user must be able to override them in order
    to ensure accessibility and usability.

    The Device Independence Activity makes similar remarks
    in their "Device Independence Principles" [0] (see
    "DIP-7: Delivery preferences").

My personal recommendations are therefore:

  - Use style sheets to change link styles (see, for example,
    section 5.11.2 of the CSS2 Recommendation [1] as well as
    5.11.3).

  - Be conservative in how far you diverge from user expectations
    of underlined blue links. Be creative, but have users test
    your design to confirm that they can find the links.

    Related: Use good link text and follow other accessibility
    guidelines related to links (see the Web Content Accessibility
    Guidelines 1.0 Recommendation [2], in particular checkpoints
    1.2, 1.5, 6.3, 9.4, 9.5, 13.1, and 13.6). See also the "Style
    Guide for online hypertext" [3].

  - Expect that some users will override your styles due to their
    own needs or preferences.

Hope this helps,

   - Ian

[0] http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-di-princ-20010918/
[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS2/selector.html#link-pseudo-classes
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/
[3] http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/

> 
> Anna Clubb
> Portal Team J6-PI
> 229-1666
>  <<Clubb Anna Contractor USTC.vcf>> 

[1] http://www.useit.com/alertbox/990502.html



-- 
Ian Jacobs (ij@w3.org)   http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs
Tel:                     +1 718 260-9447
Received on Friday, 28 June 2002 11:37:19 UTC

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