Usability Tip for Visited Link Colors

March 21, 2005
web

I have been messing around with some link colors on my dealazon site over the weekend, and I noticed that visited link colors we're really important.

So my tip is don't make a visited link color darker than the default link color. Here are the colors that I was using:

This is a regular link

This is a visited link

Using those colors my brain found it very hard to believe that the darker color was a visited link. For some reason I am used to lighter colors for visited links.

I tend to like silver as a vlink color, it works well with white backgrounds in pretty much all color schemes, and also makes it known that the link was clicked.



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Comments

I think this is a very personal and subjective issue. I prefer unvisited links to have more contrast with regular text and for visited links to look more like regular text. Of course, any user can set their browser to override your settings - and you need to remember that color-blind or partially-sighted visitors are not going to see your link colors the same way (if at all).
This goes along with the idea that a visited link is "faded" out because you already went there. Anything that is now secondary should be displayed as such from a visual perspective.
This goes along with the idea that a visited link is "faded" out because you already went there. Anything that is now secondary should be displayed as such from a visual perspective.
In order to put a more objective spin on it (or at least a researched opinion), Jakob Nielson agrees: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20040510.html Usability.gov indicates the importance of using a different color for visited links. They cite a preference for the traditional blue/purple combination, but don't go beyond that in how to choose colors: http://usability.gov/pdfs/guidelines_book.pdf#page=56 (pdf)
Well, if you have black text and light grey links (to make them stand out) then using a dark grey for visited links still follows Jakob's guideline: "The color for unvisited links should be more vivid, bright, and saturated than the color for visited links, which should look "used" (dull and washed out)." If you use bright blue for a link, then either pale blue or dark blue is less "vivid, bright, and saturated". The intent is that unvisited links stand out from text and visited links are related by colored but don't stand out as much. Pete's original colors do not follow that guideline - as expected - because the unvisited link color is not "vivid, bright, and saturated" - both colors are kinda dull. My own blog also violates this guideline and at least one reader has asked me to make the (un)visited links more obvious :(

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