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Visited, Unvisited & Hovered Links

A recent thread on one of the webmaster forums talked about a small study of how new users, including silver surfers, use the Internet.

One of the points mentioned was the use of color change to distinguish between visited and unvisited links. The observers noticed that new users, the silver surfers in particular, found it very helpful when a website showed them what they had already seen.

With a newbie silver surfer in my own home, this was far from news to me.

What surprised me was the discussion that followed.

All Webmasters Don't Change Link Colors

Many seasoned webmasters did not agree with the assessment of the visited links should be displayed differently.

Some basically said that if someone was so dumb that they couldn't remember where they'd been on a website that wasn't their problem. They seemed more intent on keeping their design pristine than making the site more usable.

Such a shortsighted view.

If a visitor is so dumb...why should they buy your product, hire you to perform a service, click on one of your ads, visit your site again, or even tell someone else about your site?

Style Over Usability?

I suspect the negative response to this aspect of the study has a single source. When a website uses text based menus, changing the style of the links using HTML and CSS is quite simple. When fancier and non-SEO friendly graphical menus are used, changing the style and color of the links is no longer so simple. Each menu item would now require 2 new images to represent visited and hover status.

I must admit that I like the look of these fancier menus. I'm quite a few years away from being a senior surfer and have been around the Internet since the early 1990s; yet, I prefer websites that indicate the pages I've visited by changing the link colors.

Each Webmaster Must Decide

Ultimately, like most things each web designer is going to have to choose.

Do you use a stylish and perhaps totally ineffective for SEO menu of links just because it looks cool?

Or, do you use a slightly less sophisticated menu that helps with SEO and makes your website more usable?

CSS can be Stylish

With some of the more advanced CSS techniques; there are virtually unlimited ways to present a link. Use of CSS to create opacity and background pictures, rollover effects, and color changes can make a very effective design while retaining a text based linking system that is preferred by search engines.

So, unless your customer is adamant for a Java or other non-text based menu for navigation, why not spend a few extra minutes designing a color scheme and a few extra lines of CSS code to make your site more user friendly?

If you don't know how to use CSS and HTML to change the look of links, visit CSS, HTML & Link Colors for a tutorial that should get you started.

Be sure to check out Help For Web Beginners other HTML & CSS Tutorials.

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