What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 131 Stack Exchange communities.

The color/decoration of links in answers on Stack Overflow (light blue, no decoration) is not very clear at all if one just links them in context (like I did there). Could we make them more obvious? A dotted underline (as here on meta), perhaps, or a little link marker? It's just too subtle...

Edit: I should say that this has nothing whatsoever to do with color preference. It does to a small extent relate to color perception, which also varies fairly widely by individual. Which is kind of the point, part of the reason that underlining (et. al.) is so strongly-conserved in web design.

share|improve this question
10  
reminds me of an insightful article I read the other day: welbog.homeip.net/glue/65/We_underline_links_for_a_reason –  fretje Dec 22 '09 at 14:31
    
If you're using Firefox, you could always write yourself a quick little greasemonkey script to change the color of the hyperlinks –  Jared Harley Dec 22 '09 at 21:22
2  
Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/52942/… (he's called it a bug) –  T.J. Crowder Apr 25 '11 at 8:41
    
I personally disagree, I have no trouble finding the links. However, are the links visible to the color-blind? –  Neil Fein Jul 3 '11 at 3:09
1  
How about links in comments? I find them even harder to see than links in answers, maybe because the text is also smaller. –  Barmar Dec 24 '12 at 17:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It seems to me that there has been something like 20 years of browsers establishing a convention that a link is offset from the rest of the text by both a change in color and by a single solid underline.

This is a convention that runs nearly as deep as [city], [state]; or using quotes, italics, or underlining for titles of books, movies, etc. To simply use something different for no good articulable reason is to be different for the sake of being different.

Early issues of Wired -- or Raygun, or... -- with they colored text on textured colored background, weaving in unusual patterns, etc; were beautiful, but they were not clear or easy to read. Eventually the magazine settle on a style that supported both alternative presentation and readability.

share|improve this answer
1  
Huh... what is this [city], state convention you speak of? For something that supposedly runs so deep, I'd expect to have heard of it before. –  Aarobot Jul 3 '11 at 1:47
    
@Aarobot when you are writing an address (at least in the US, as I see you reside in the land to the north), or refer to a city and state you would say something like: "I am from Portland, Oregon" that comma is the convention to which I refer. I cannot speak for Canadians, but if you look at your profile you will see that SO put a comma between Toronto and Canada which is a variation of the same convention –  JockM Jul 3 '11 at 1:55
    
@Aarobot I am curious, did that clear things up as to what I was referring to? –  JockM Jul 31 '11 at 2:00
    
Yes, I got it - the first version of this answer had [city] in brackets but not state, so it looked like the brackets were supposed to be the convention. –  Aarobot Jul 31 '11 at 2:29
    
@Aarobot thanks, I wanted to make sure that wasn't just hanging out there. –  JockM Jul 31 '11 at 4:21

I don't really have a problem seeing links within posts/answers, especially as they underline when hovered over.

I do however occasionally link to MSDN docs like so:

System.String

This combination of code formatting and hyperlinking makes it harder to distinguish that a link is present, especially as on SO the link hover colour is the same as the normal link colour and there is no hover underline (when used with code formatting).

share|improve this answer
3  
this, I am more sympathetic to –  Jeff Atwood Dec 23 '09 at 1:13

I am totaly agree with @T.J. Crowder. Links are an important part of an answer, but it is hard to understand where should I click.

Just underline it with a light-dotted line, so it won't add any noise, but it will be ten times more recognizable.

share|improve this answer

Color preference is a personal thing.

The links are underlined here on meta because they're the same color as the text.

Given the millions of users that have passed through SO, and the two (three?) times this has ever come up, 99.999% of users are not having trouble seeing the links.

share|improve this answer
14  
0.001% of a million page visits a day is like 10 people a day. That's almost 100 people a week! That's almost 500 people a month! That's almost 8000 people a year! I don't care how smarmy you are, Jeff, but 8000 people could totally beat you up. They could take turns. That's a lot of unhappy people. –  XMLbog Dec 22 '09 at 12:30
33  
People who don't notice the links will not bring it up as a problem. –  Henk Holterman Dec 22 '09 at 12:35
15  
Most people just don't complain. –  user27414 Dec 22 '09 at 13:50
    
and it's not necessarily a straight multiplier, either: it could be that thew same 2 people have problems with the color every day but visit a lot of questions.. so therefore there are not 8000 users, but 2 :) –  warren Dec 22 '09 at 15:44
9  
"Color preference is a personal thing." - although one should always consider color-blind users, which make up about 10% of the male population. –  Adam Davis Dec 22 '09 at 15:58
6  
@[Jeff Atwood]: please reconsider. To quote from useit.com/alertbox/20040510.html - "To maximize the perceived affordance of clickability, color and underline the link text. Users shouldn't have to guess or scrub the page to find out where they can click." –  Steven A. Lowe Dec 23 '09 at 0:28
    
What a crazy random happenstance that I had written about this very issue earlier this month about something similar! welbog.homeip.net/glue/65/We-underline-links-for-a-reason It's like the things I write about on my website come true! I'm going to write myself a box of donuts. –  XMLbog Dec 23 '09 at 17:31
    
welbog's site requires underlines for the same reason meta requires underline -- the link color is almost the same as the text. BTW, welbog, your links are quite hard to read in the text due to the light-grey-on-white-ness; I'd make them darker, since they're already underlined. –  Jeff Atwood Dec 23 '09 at 19:09
2  
@Jeff: You're the first one to complain about the intensity of my links. Since I generally humour every feature request I get, I'll experiment with different amounts of contrast. The background is #FFFFFF and the links are #777777. What would you suggest? I'll give #555555 a try in my testing environment and see what the guys on Wave think. Thanks for the input. –  XMLbog Dec 23 '09 at 19:52
    
See, if I make the links darker, it's harder to distinguish between content links and other links. I'm going to have to put more thought into this. Jeff, you need to get on Wave so that we can talk about this. –  XMLbog Dec 23 '09 at 20:05
    
why do there need to be "two types of links"? What is a "content link"? what is an "other link"? –  Jeff Atwood Dec 23 '09 at 20:25
4  
This is so sad Jeff, I can't see links on serverfault.com you should underline all links like you do on meta. –  Rook Jun 4 '10 at 18:00
2  
Color preference is a personal thing Apparently not: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/14194/…. Decline this if you will, it's completely up to you, and we still love you regardless, but please keep the bs to a minimum. –  Yannis Dec 21 '11 at 9:49
2  
I'm not colourblind and I find it difficult to spot links, especially if I've visited them before. I just added a redundant answer to this question because I didn't see a link the asker provided in their question. There are huge numbers of people who are colour blind, it's not a rare thing. The upside of making SO easier to use for many people is obvious and there doesn't seem to be any downside. –  Jim Mar 7 '12 at 9:15
2  
This is such a ridiculous reply; "Only a few people brought it up, so it's not a problem". Just because it's not noticed doesn't mean it's not a problem –  Timmy O'Mahony Dec 11 '12 at 13:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .