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ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)


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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Ward Conant <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 4 Nov 1999 12:31:34 -0600
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The use of underlines on links (and the colors used to represent visited and
unvisited links) were arbitrary decisions made by someone on the Mosaic team
in the early days of Web browsers. The choices that were made then were bad
choices. There are typographical reasons to *not* underline links, and the
rules of typography (and the associated affordances) have been around a lot
longer than the rules of Web browsers. In my opinion, it is good design to
*not* underline links, but rather to use color and context to indicate

Why do something a particular way just because "that is the way I've seen it
done" when there are good reasons to do things differently? The conventions
created randomly, and with little thought, by young, eager programmers 5 or
6 years ago do not, in my mind, equal a standard that must be adhered to.

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Fry [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: November 03, 1999 9:02 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: the new

The Washington Post very recently unveiled a newly renovated According to the editors, "The site's new look and
functionality are the result of intensive study and ongoing
communication with our users."
Included in the new design are:

* an increase in page width to 800 pixels
* the use of style sheets in one of the primary nav schemes that remove
the underline from text-based links.

I have written the editors to ask, in earnest, how they conducted their
research and how (for example) they decided to move to 800 pixels. The
width change happens to be fine for *my* configuration, but I'm curious
to see how/why the Post decided it would be OK for the bulk of their

On the other hand, I've been unable to find anything redeeming about the
link style. It's application is inconsistent on the site--from what I
can tell, the style is used for just one of the site's nav schemes--and
it runs counter to a standard that I have to imagine most people depend
on. Indeed, the underline is an affordance, isn't it?

In any case, The Post is not the first major site I've seen of late to
remove the underline. And so I ask: What benefit are users supposed to
receive from this design? What makes site designers think that removing
the underline from text links will do anything but confuse their