Blue Links – Assumed, or Actual Norm?

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Many people take it that links should either be graphics or left to the default colors. Years of debate have existed because of this theory. Essentially the theory is correct, but misunderstood. Let me explain how this theory became the rule.

There are no specifications in the HTML standards that state links must be blue, red, green, purple, or any other color. A standard was accepted between the browsers because Netscape Communications started out using blue links for links which had not yet been visited. Red links were used to identify active links. And, finally purple links were established as visited links.

This concept was carried through to all the browsers simply because Netscape Communications, starting with Mosaic, created a policy. Policies are not standards. Policies are social norms that are accepted and become unstated rules.

Now, why is it everyone thinks that blue links are required or that graphical links are accepted?

Links in the acceptable (normative) navigation locations have been accepted as graphics. However, for many years this accepted action has created more problems than it has actually resolved. Webmasters, web designers, and web developers alike have used poor coding techniques when they utilize graphics for links. The use of using graphics for links will continue to cause problems for many people. This should cease and make the World Wide Web a better place.

Now, what happens when we take the graphical buttons out and replace them with text links which are much better? First, we’re stuck with this assumed norm that links should be blue as their default color. This assumed norm then makes our pages be in a color that have a high contrast against the blue links. What colors could that be? Certainly not blues, purples, or any other color that has a hue or saturation that makes the blue links not visible.

Therefore, for navigation links we should make the links a color that provides a high contrast to the background color. For links against a black background one should typically use white links and set the visited links to either white or to a grey that’s still visible against the black background. While many people say that a graphical button would be much better, that assumption is fallible.

Now, if the content contains links and one has a white background one should make those links blue. Yet, if one used blue text to present the content the only words that should have underlines are the links.

It is highly recommended to understand why things become assumed norms and how they become actual norms. The blue links policy is an assumed norm; it is not an actual norm. Links should be identifiable from the remaining portions of the content. Either those links should be in the actual normative locations for site navigation (left, top, right, bottom) or consistently identifiable from the remaining words in the content of the page.

Lee Roberts President/CEO of target="_blank">Rose Rock Design, Inc. and owner/developer of the Apple
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Blue Links – Assumed, or Actual Norm?
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