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Tuesday, May 22

Must links always be blue?

Following a discussion with a colleague, I was sent back to review a usability basic: must links always be blue and underlined? Can't they be some other colour?

A good place to start is and in their latest newsletter they ask Should All Links be Underlined?'.

Pointing to the basics, the potential for user misunderstanding when you stray from 'norms', they say:

For example, your users will wonder:
  • Is the text clickable?
  • Or is it just being emphasized?

However there are some obvious exceptions.

Besides visual clutter, there are times when underlined links may not be appropriate, such as in left navigation and in tabbed navigation. In a long list, especially bulleted ones, the overwhelming amount of text and underlining hampers readability. The visual clutter may be especially rampant on home pages that are link and text heavy, as well as on index pages and launch pages.

Jakob Nielsen adds that:

  • Blue underlined text universally means 'click here', anything else can mean something else to a user.
  • The main issue is luminance, such as the difference with visited link colour: the standard purple colour is duller than standard blue.
  • The universal consideration though is 'is it usable?' — you don't actually know until you test pages.

Given the above:

"Shades of blue provide the strongest signal for links, but other colors work almost as well."

The issue is consistency.

Plus I think the blue helps break up text and draw interest to text. It makes content appear richer.

You know it's a link at a glance and any other choice would need to be tested to ensure your design isn't making it harder for users.

Common things are like if page titles use the same font size, face and color as links — users won't all know if it is clickable or a page title or heading.

Experts in content like Nick Usbourne say:

We like standard blue or:

#0000CC is a little darker

#000099 is a littler darker than that

Both clearly look like “links”

For visited you can use the same color (standard blue), standard purple or something like:



These colour choices also 'degrade' well — another usability basic which is particularly relevant when you have an audience which includes a % with dial-up/ancient machinery running with 256 colours.

Bytes · Green Yahoo - Modern interviewing - Hillary's theme

  • Continuing with the 'electronic trail will get you' meme ...A scary tale from The New York Times:
    Andrew Feldmar, a Vancouver psychotherapist, was on his way to pick up a friend at the Seattle airport last summer when he ran into a little trouble at the border.

    A guard typed Mr. Feldmar’s name into an Internet search engine, which revealed that he had written about using LSD in the 1960s in an interdisciplinary journal. Mr. Feldmar was turned back and is no longer welcome in the United States, where he has been active professionally and where both of his children live.

    Mr. Feldmar, 66, has a distinguished résumé, no criminal record and a candid manner. Though he has not used illegal drugs since 1974, he says he has no regrets.

  • Yahoo is pushing the Global Warming message through online education at Yahoo Green, as well as elsewhere on the Network such as in the AutoSales bit.

  • No doubt fearing Viviane Reding and the EU, UK behavioural targeting companies have begun the move towards self-regulation to protect them from accusations of privacy abuse.

  • Jeff Jarvis has an interesting tale about 'The thoroughly modern interview' for The Guardian.

    The fuss began when Fred Vogelstein - a Wired magazine journalist, reporting a story about a powerful blogger - asked two fellow bloggers for phone interviews. But they each set conditions. Jason Calacanis, a blogging entrepreneur, insisted on doing the interview via email so he could publish a full record of it online. Dave Winer, an internet pioneer, said he'd answer questions in public, on his blog, if he had anything to say. Both explained that they do this in part because in the past they have been misquoted. Wired's own bloggers piled in, sniping at Calacanis and Winer, launching more bloggers. And the kerfuffle was on.

    His conclusion?

    The article is a process. It is collaborative. It is three-dimensional, linking to background and depth. It's alive! Of course, phone and in-person interviews have a role. But how interviews occur can no longer be limited to a reporter's rules.

  • Tim Worstall points out to the Register that in the fall-out from the trainee doctors IT fiasco, Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt, appears to be blaming the whistleblowing bloggers - "criminal offences may have been committed".

    This when the clear breach of Data Protection law was due to her Department's incompetent web security.

    Then there are those who brought the problem to light, such as the NHSBlogDoctor. Distressed at being informed of such a gaping loophole in the system he went to have a look for himself. This is a criminal offence - hacking a computer system. Unable to believe what he saw, he asked a few trusties to have a look themselves - another offence, incitement to hack a computer system.

    Having committed these offences, what did the Good Doctor do then? He informed the Department of Health and the system was taken down within a few minutes, thus preventing said department from continuing in their own breach of the law.

    When alerted to a possible breach of the law by the authorities, it would seem that investigating such breach is in itself a criminal offence. That's certainly the way to bring about some accountability to the system don't you think? A way of preventing the more obvious lunacies, of improving the system?

  • Hillary Clinton's campaign is leading the pack of contenders on the Web.

    She's turned the much viewed YouTube hit of the sound of her own halting voice singing the national anthem into a positive by launching a 'Campaign Theme Tune' search. Via YouTube, and jokes at the end:

    "Whatever song you choose, though, I make you this solemn and sacred promise: I won't sing it in public - unless I win."

    She has nine choices up on her site. As well she has a pioneering text messaging campaign.

    I was looking at the Campaign sites and the similarity is striking (Edwards - Hillary - Obama > previous long post with all the sites links). They're also all extremely well done.

    I can only assume they all hired people from the same Dean campaign background?

  • Heather Hopkins reports good news — many more older people are getting online.

    The increase has come from rich and poor alike. The Experian Mosaic groups Twilight Subsistence (pensioners subsisting on meagre incomes) and Grey Perspectives (pensioners enjoying retirement with savings to supplement their pensions) have both increased their online footprint. Internet visits from Twilight subsistence are up 29% over the past two years and visits from Grey Perspectives are up 30%.

    Among the top categories visited by those aged 55+:

    · Search Engines, Adult and Shopping & Classifieds are the favourites, and are consistent with the most visited categories overall.
    · Silver surfers show a particular fondness for Travel and News and Media websites.
    · Money and leisure pursuits are more interesting to silver surfers than other demographic groups.


    Perhaps unsurprising but worth mentioning, comparing the percentage of UK Internet visits by Mosaic Group with the size of each group in the offline population reveals that the wealthiest groups are more active online than their less well-off counterparts.

    In particular:

    · Symbols of Success and Urban Intelligence, which are among the groups most likely to earn a household income in excess of £50,000, are 22% and 31% overrepresented online.
    · The groups Twilight Subsistence and Municipal Dependency, which are among the most likely to earn a household income of less than $7,4999, are 37% and 34% underrepresented online.

Monday, May 21

Mail savages 'Whitehall's jogging blogger'

Barder: 'Whitehall's jogging blogger' [actually one of several]

Sunday's Daily Mail carried a long, malicious attack on civil servant Owen Barder's blog.

Barder works for the Department for International Development.

Tim Worstall has taken the article apart on his blog. The Mail did things like quote from comments as if they were Barder's own words — the article is full of misquotations and falsifications. It's what an Aussie would call a 'beat-up'.

Unfortunately but perhaps not surprising Barder has taken his blog down — his personal site's still there though.

Worstall, who's of the right and opposed to all Barder stands for, nevertheless recognises an injustice and the underlying threat is represents:

I have to admit that I think this piece in the Mail is really rather extraordinary. As above, you can see that it's a mixture of gross distortions, garbled (and wrongly attributed) quotes and in general a hit job.

Which is really something that all of us other bloggers might want to start thinking about. If they hound Owen out of his job on the basis of the above farrago and tissue of innuendo and misquotation then that's rather going to be the end of this enjoyable pastime for most of us, isn't it? Anyone writing tens of thousands of words over the years is open to such an assassination of the character.

Traditional here to start quoting Voltaire but the problem with that is that Voltaire never actually said it. I think we all know the Pastor Niemoller quote by now as well, don't we? So I'll just content myself with a small in joke shall I?

I am Spartacus!

Worstall also notes in the comments that although he has posted about this on the Mail's message board - surprise! - those comments have yet to appear.

I hope Barder sues the Mail. I'm sorry to see him bullied into taking his website down — he's done absolutely nothing wrong.

They need warning off. Otherwise anyone blogging, anyone, can see their words misquoted back at them (or words put in their mouth). A good legal decision would clarify the situation.

Same goes for the issue I mentioned before — about Google search of our electronic trails being used in HR.

I think the defining lines are clear, otherwise why would anyone who works also do a blog? (Or post on a Bulletin Board or write to a newspaper). What hasn't happened is clear legal (and political) line drawing, although it is good to see HM Opposition thus far steering clear.

Bottom line: people are allowed a life outside work and a political opinion. That's actually legally codified!

If employers want people to give that up they generally remunerate them very well or there's some other intangible prize.

A few right-wing bloggers (echoing the Mail) have said that his private life and opinion 'brings the civil service into disrepute' (aka, he has no right to a private life). But it has been good to see so many bloggers who would disagree with his opinions defending Barder.

Perhaps in producing such a shoddily researched article, the Mail has done bloggers a backhand favour? Jeremy Gould, another Whitehall blogger, comments that "something has happened". Indeed. Maybe The Mail over-reached.

The Mail makes a big deal of Barder's salary. Given the Mail's evident 'high moral standards' wouldn't it therefore be fair in their moral universe to trawl the electronic utterances of their journalists to see how the two match up?