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Back in the day, a vivid blue and a royal violet distinguished available and visited links on the majority of websites. Even simple pages often took many seconds to load, and the assumption was that purple helped the user know where they had been and where they were going.

Today, we've largely left behind the default blue colors for links, leading to a variety of both helpful and harmful design trends. Much has been written about making click targets discoverable and accessible, but I'm having trouble finding contemporary resources for visited states.

My question is threefold:

  • In the age of SPAs and dynamic content views, should we be styling visited links at all?

  • With contemporary design leaving the blue behind, and with accessibility concerns placing increased emphasis on form over color, are there better alternatives (e.g., text styling) than the classic purple?

  • Is there anything about contemporary sites still making prominent use of blue-vs-purple (like Craigslist) that sets their use cases or user scenarios apart from other sites and apps? Does this set them apart from their direct competitors (like Letgo) who don't style visited links?

Thanks in advance!

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Looking at Google (here's your example of a contemporary website still using it), it makes sense for search results to see which pages you have visited in search for that one page giving the right information.

What I think (sorry no hard data here) is that the pattern of using blue and purple on text links with an underline is the only pattern that works. It works because it's what people learned from the old internet days when web styles were more restricted to certain patterns than now.
"Modern" websites just may not like that old looking style and don't use it. And introducing a different pattern won't be easy. Other than just saying "visited" next to a link, coming up with something that people will understand directly is very difficult let alone defining a new standard.
The old style still works because giants like Google keep it alive (and it's a default style for all popular browsers). But if it doesn't fit the style of a service/website/brand they might not want to use it.

  • Yes, that's a case where it makes the most sense -- Reddit and Craigslist follow this pattern as well. They have long lists of third-party content that's frequently updating. What I'm trying to figure out, though, is if there's anything sets these apart (other than age) compared sites and apps that don't style visited links -- yelp, pinterest, letgo, etc. – Nathan Christie Jul 24 '17 at 15:42

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