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.


5 Answers 5


Done as of August 17th, 2018:

We've intentionally added underlines to links in posts and comments for contrast and accessibility reasons. Many of our themes' primary colors don't deviate much from the text color itself, so we went with the classic way of showing a link's a link.

  • 1
    As an older man with worse eyes I appreciate it.
    – Jeremy
    Aug 18, 2018 at 19:48

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:


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).

  • 5
    this, I am more sympathetic to Dec 23, 2009 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.


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.

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    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, 2011 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, 2011 at 1:55
  • @Aarobot I am curious, did that clear things up as to what I was referring to?
    – JockM
    Jul 31, 2011 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, 2011 at 2:29
  • @Aarobot thanks, I wanted to make sure that wasn't just hanging out there.
    – JockM
    Jul 31, 2011 at 4:21

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.

  • 16
    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.
    – Welbog
    Dec 22, 2009 at 12:30
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    People who don't notice the links will not bring it up as a problem. Dec 22, 2009 at 12:35
  • 16
    Most people just don't complain.
    – user27414
    Dec 22, 2009 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, 2009 at 15:44
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    "Color preference is a personal thing." - although one should always consider color-blind users, which make up about 10% of the male population.
    – Pollyanna
    Dec 22, 2009 at 15:58
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    @[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." Dec 23, 2009 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.
    – Welbog
    Dec 23, 2009 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. Dec 23, 2009 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.
    – Welbog
    Dec 23, 2009 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.
    – Welbog
    Dec 23, 2009 at 20:05
  • why do there need to be "two types of links"? What is a "content link"? what is an "other link"? Dec 23, 2009 at 20:25
  • "You're the first one to complain about the intensity of my link" 0.001% of a hundred page visits a day is like 1/10th of a person a day! :) Dec 23, 2009 at 20:26
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    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, 2010 at 18:00
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    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, 2012 at 9:15
  • 4
    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 Dec 11, 2012 at 13:19

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