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How should we be treating visited links in 2006?

Visited Link Colors



3:33 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As far as I know, the usability thinking for some time has been that visited link colors should be different to link colours. It's certainly one of those things I realise I've taken for granted as the "the way it should be".

But what if someone questions why? What if you have to justify to someone why this makes sense? I guess my question is, does it make usability sense to me because that's the way I'm used to things, or because it has been proven somewhere to be more user friendly.

Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts out there on this .. I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear it's because I have a client wanting to know why! [I was sure it was specifically mentioned in the WCAG recommendations, but can't now find it?]

Now that I'm thinking about it, a couple of related things where it'd be great see what everyone out there is thinking these days:
- with the advent of XHTML / CSS is anyone still putting in text / link etc. attributes into the body element for non-css users?
- if we are using css to denoted visited status, could using font styles / other css tricks instead of color change also be considered good pratice?

many thanks! any opinion appreciated .. i'm just trying to work out what's right and wrong these days :)


8:32 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I don't recall any WCAG or usability recommendations on setting visited link colours, but I do tend to use them in all sites I create. Usually I use a faded/lighter shade of the main link colour for this, but not always.

I also like them from a user perspective. I must have the memory span of a goldfish as I can never remember which links I've already visited, so a visual indication of this via the visited link colour is useful.

Guess other CSS stylings could also be used for visited links, though I'd only tend to do that if it fits in with the overall scheme of links on the site.

One thing that does annoy me is the used of bold CSS styles for link hover settings when the base link style is normal. This can cause text blocks containing the links to jump about and reflow, which is the part I find annoying.


11:07 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member penders is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I think it is certainly useful when visited links change in some way - it helps my memory too. It seems to be generally accepted that they just change colour in some way, and to be honest if they changed much more than that it could be confusing for most users these days I think.

It is also handy, when you are coming back to a site many days later and you want to find the info you were looking at when you were last there - if the visited links are highlighted then they can point you back in the right direction.

I don't think that main navigation links need to change after they have been visited, as it is likely people will be going back to them again anyway.

It is also useful when a page is linked to more than once from a page, but perhaps with different linking text. After you have visited the linked page, then all the other links change too so you know they are the same and you don't have to bother clicking to see.

ASIDE: Normal links... There are a lot of links out there where the developer has gotten rid of the underline and relied solely on a colour difference to indicate a link - I think this could be problematic in terms of accessibility.


6:47 pm on Aug 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member piatkow is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I get annoyed when a designer matches anchor text to the rest of the page and changes colour only on mouse over. Am I really supposed to run the mouse over every word on the page?

There are <i>de facto</i> conventions about identifying anchor text. To depart from them on a whim smacks of arrogance and arrogant web designers have me reaching for the back button.


3:14 pm on Aug 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I get annoyed when a designer matches anchor text to the rest of the page and changes colour only on mouse over

That's really bad, I assume that's not done by any of the big players?

I usually go for a different colour for links, and underlined. If underlining isn't wanted (for main navigation, or by awkward clients who don't think it looks nice) I would go for just colour, and I quite like underline on mouseover.

For visited links, I would also agree that it's good to use a different colour, I like to use grey.


10:43 am on Aug 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It has been a general practice since time immeorial to make visited link different then the rest.

The reson was to let the visitor know that he/she has already visted a link and not visit it again.

Sometimes you are too lost in reading or seeing that you loose sight of what you have already visited and what is left to be visited.


6:57 pm on Sep 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Links should be underlined (or otherwise significantly different). Relying on color alone is _bad_ usability.


1:21 pm on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

+1 to DrDoc comment, links in text should be underlined - have a read through Dive into Accessibility: Day 12 [diveintoaccessibility.org] to better understand why.

Also (and I use to do otherwise) visited links should be of a different color to help able visitors know where thay have been. Screen reader will mention that the link has been visited when reading it out loud (at least JAWS does).


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