Should Hyperlinks Always Be Blue?

    May 9, 2003

Question: I am the webmaster for West Salem High School, additionally I run my own web design company (thus my subscription to DevWebPro). I read your article on the importance of underlining links and keeping them blue.

I will start of by admitting that I am one of those people who sometimes takes design and puts it in front of purpose. I try to check myself on that and ensure that visitors to my sites have navigation that doesn’t change throughout the website, but I do not stick with blue, underlined links.

I fully understand that you may not have the time for this but if you wouldn’t mind, could you take a look at the two following sites (The second is a work in progress, as this is our high school’s first year that it has been open) and give an evaluation about the links and any other aspects you notice that could be improved upon.

Additionally, if I am designing a site for a company who has colors that clash with blue what should I do?

Dimensions Web Design
West Salem High School

Thank you very much for your time and evaluations.

Jamie’s Answer:

Although your links are not underlined, they are blue, which is good. Since the design is clean and uncluttered, the links stand out fairly well on the main page. However, the links are not quite as obvious on the other pages. For example, on the portfolio and services pages, the blue color looks like it’s being used just for emphasis, not to indicate a link. Since many sites use colored text that is not linked, visitors won’t know what to expect on your site. Although you are actually very consistent, visitors don’t have any way of knowing that. Consequently, they can’t be sure whether all blue text is linked or not.

Although it may be a small issue, there is no reason why you should remove the underlines. It is sometimes ok to break the rules, but you should never do it without a good reason. In your site, the underlines would not detract from the design at all, and they would add an extra little bit of clarity. Don’t remove that functional element.

Occasionally, there are situations where blue underlined links really do not look good, and they genuinely make the design look bad. In that case, it’s ok to use a different color. Just make sure it’s obvious that links are links and that unlinked text is not linked.

Aside from underlines, there are a couple other link issues that I noticed on your site. First, don’t make the “DWD” squares in the header and footer clickable. Visitors will think that image is a link, but that’s not the case. If you want to make the image a link back to the home page, that would be fine, but don’t make it clickable unless it actually goes somewhere.

There is a similar problem with the Flash animation toward the bottom of the services page. Although that element is not clickable, visitors won’t know why it is there. Although it isn’t a link, it looks like one. Don’t confuse visitors.

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