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Revisiting why hyperlinks are blue

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🔗 By Elise Blanchard. Published 11/01/22. Permalink.

This is a charming, deeply-researched post (via Baldur Bjarnason) that explains the who, what, when and why of the current default browser hyperlink blue, #0000EE.

I found myself enjoying my morning coffee, reading through hate mail from my first article, as one does.

Unsurprisingly, the choice of blue was not an aesthetic decision. It was based on solid, accessible principles – #0000EE contrasts clearly against a white background, and remains distinct for users who are colour blind.

We conducted approximately 20 empirical studies of many design variables which were reported at the Hypertext 1987 conference and in [an] array of journals and books. Issues such as the use of light [sic – dark blue only becomes a standard by around 1991] blue highlighting as the default color for links, the inclusion of a history stack, easy access to a BACK button, article length, and global string search were all studied empirically.

A lot of modern web design no longer aims to provide usable, accessible interfaces. Instead, it’s become an exercise in branding and marketing, even if we can now refer to a set of heuristics that save us a lot of thinking around UI.

Anyway, in the spirit of celebrating the history of web design, I periodically use the old-fashioned, international default browser blue as an accent colour. I guess I’m also making an indirect point.

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gregmooregregmoore

@leonp Very interesting read, thanks for sharing. It also gave me a chuckle thinking of how I could use my office’s craze for “data driven decision making” to pivot our UI back to the design of the original internet.

pimoorepimoore

@leonp Very interesting read, though I’ll admit to never liking the “default blue” myself. I’m too used to the Tufte philosophy now of having no colour in links. 😆

leonpleonp

@gregmoore we actually did this with our newsletter a few years back after we found a fairly plain, single column, mainly text-based version with blue (natch) links worked best. So there’s your data to go ahead ;-)

leonpleonp

@pimoore I quite like it, mainly because it’s so unfashionable now :-) Branding based on browser blue would make a statement. But it does make you think that the website is somehow broken as it hasn’t styled links.