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Ranting Again

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Written by Basil on 09/16/2002 5:06 PM. Filed under:

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<rant mode="usability">Web designers, leave text-decoration alone! No, no, no — bad!

There are two reasons for this:

  1. If you force text-decoration to be none, users who do not fiddle with their settings will lose one of their primary modes of determining what text is linked. In fact, this identification is so strong that some designers mistakenly think that it is the only thing necessary to distinguish a link, which leads to the next point.
  2. If you force text-decoration to be underline, then users who specifically do not want their links to be underlined will be annoyed at your overriding of their preference.

My former employer is guilty of both offenses at once! They use text-decoration: none for a:link, and then they use text-decoration: underline for a:hover. (I did not work in the web design department, but I let them know that this is a problem. As usual, I was ignored.)

Although the abuse of HTML and CSS has caused link colors to stray far from the once-standard blue for unvisited links and purple for visited links, sticking with these increases the chance that users will recognize and follow your links. When it is necessary for aesthetic purposes to go with other color choices, straying as little as possible is preferrable. Try to stick as much as possible with either [blue|#0000ff;] or [red|#ff0000;] for links. Red is a good second choice because, as a hot color, it will pop out from most designs.

It is also important for accessibility initiatives that methods other than color be used to distinguish links from surrounding text. I prefer bold, because typographically underlining is not good for anything. However, forcing underlining to be either on or off violates the principle of respect for the user, in terms of aesthetics in the case of forcing underlining, and in terms of accessibility in the case of disabling it.</rant>

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