links be blue and purple? Could the Web gurus be wrong?
Obviously, for reasons of efficiency and, above all, safety, no one would ever dream of replacing the three colors of the traffic light system with colored neon lights, even if it did make them look better (Gerry McGovern "Web navigation: traffic light, not neon light design").
Both Gerry McGovern and Jakob Nielsen believe that it would be a mistake to use any colors other than blue for unvisited links and purple for visited links.
Although I agree with McGovern that the primary aim of site navigation features should be efficiency and that making them more flashy usually only confuses visitors, I don't believe that the colors chosen are all that important.
In my opinion, the main way of characterizing a link is not by using a particular color, but by underlining the text itself.
If the color was the main characteristic of a hypertext link, all we would have to do would be to make certain parts of the texts on our sites blue to let users know that they were clickable. Allow me to doubt the efficiency of this rather simple tactic.
In my opinion, the color means nothing if the text is not underlined. The color of a link can make users more aware of it, but it is only of secondary importance. Moreover, putting underlined links in bold can work just as well.
It is interesting to note that, on McGovern's own site, Nua.com, the links in the center of the page are indeed blue and then purple once they have been visited, but that blue is also the color of the site's left- and right-hand columns. Choosing the color blue for its links is therefore totally in harmony with the site's color palette, and works well esthetically.
However, we also noticed that, for readability purposes, the hypertext links in the left-hand menu are white on blue! What's more, they do not change color once they have been visited.
menus on McGovern's site, the great majority of e-Commerce sites have
now given up using the standard blue/purple colors for links.
The study sample is composed of sites with browser-to-buyer conversion rates of between 2% and 30.3%. These sites are visited by 120 million users every month and are therefore totally representative of Internet traffic.
The results of our study show that, as far as hypertext links are concerned, only 27% of the sites still use the "standard" blue color for unvisited links. In other words, 73% of these e-Commerce sites now use links that they have customized in their own colors.
of customized links on oneHanesPlace.com
(old and new version of the site):
My second reflection concerns the question of whether visited links should change color or not.
61% of the sites in our study do not use different colors according to whether the links have been visited or not. Worse, only 13% of them still use the color purple for visited links.
trying to say that these figures demonstrate that the standards championed
by Nielsen and McGovern should be given up for good, but simply to point
out that it is quite clear that users today are not disorientated and/or
disturbed if sites don't use them.
The same reasoning is true for many of the main "repetitive" pages habitually found in the navigation structure of a retail site.
This leads us to question whether we are offering users a real service by changing the color of visited links or whether we are not, in fact, making navigation more awkward for them.
In fact, I would go even further than this and say that it can sometimes be counter-productive for a site to change the color of its links for certain categories (Best sellers, for example): the user may not revisit links if their color has changed, although the site's commercial success may well depend on these categories being regularly revisited.
my approach goes further than the usability aspect alone, since it is
mainly focused on the eShopability capacities of e-Commerce sites.
In the "informative" context, changing the color of a link is totally justified: it effectively reminds the visitor that he has already accessed the information connected to that particular link.
This is particularly useful for searching the site's archives, for example.
the things that make this type of site easy to use do not necessarily
work so well on e-Commerce sites.
There is no point, then, in discarding one system or the other; it is much better to use them appropriately, not automatically, according to the aim of each particular site.
I believe that Web standards should evolve as users' experience grows. If we try and freeze certain criteria, by likening them to traffic lights, I don't believe we will be doing much of a favor either to retail sites or to users.
Extract from site eShopability.com