W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > April to June 1999

Link Colors (more usability than accessibility)

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 1999 12:49:09 -0700
Message-Id: <4.1.19990624124305.02d34bc0@mail.idyllmtn.com>
To: Steve Donie <sdonie@zycor.lgc.com>
Cc: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 12:41 PM 6/24/1999 , Steve Donie wrote:
>Minor nit to pick - it looks like you have chosen your own link color and
>visited-link color. For me (using IE 5) it turns out that the colors you
>have chosen are the _opposite_ of the default colors (that is, your link
>color is the default visited-link color, and your visited-link color is the
>default link color).

>Makes things kinda confusing at first, because initially it looks to me like
>I've visited all the links!

Good point -- I noticed this myself a while ago.  Link color is a
very subtle but valuable tool that web surfers rely on.

Whenever possible you should _not_ change the link colors; it's 
worse to change inline link colors than to change a menubar link
color.  As an example, please see the HTML Writers Guild's web
site at:


We have deliberately chosen to use blue links and purple visited
links because this is what many users expect.  (The link colors for
the left menu bar are changed, however, since they serve a
different purpose and clearly are a navigation structure, while
inline links are a different story.)

This increases the usability of the site by taking advantage of
the fact that nearly every web user who uses a graphical browser
is familiar with "blue is unvisited, purple is visited."

If you're going to change the link colors, you need to be careful
how you do it -- make sure that the most obvious color is the
"unvisited" one, and something more subdued is the "visited".
Squint at your page or run it through the Greeker and see what
colors stand out the most.

Never, ever, ever do what was done on this page -- never use blue
and purple BUT REVERSED.  That will only serve to drive web
users insane.  If you're going to use blue and purple as link
colors, you MUST use them in the "normal" way or else you are
seriously damaging the usability of your site.

Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Received on Thursday, 24 June 1999 15:55:30 UTC

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