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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]>
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Wed, 3 Nov 1999 21:01:41 -0500
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Michael Fry <[log in to unmask]>
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College of Info. Science & Technology, Drexel Univ.
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The Washington Post very recently unveiled a newly renovated
washingtonpost.com. According to the editors, "The site's new look and
functionality are the result of intensive study and ongoing
communication with our users."
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/guide/publisher/pubnote.htm)
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
readership.

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
readership?

mf

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