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HTML buttons vs hyperlinks for navigation

HTML links were born to show internal or external pages, or take you to a specific page position (anchors).

Now, with the popularization of AJAX, some developers started to use them to display dynamic content, perform actions like save, delete, etc. In some GUIs, even they are used to display dialogs (twitter).

I know that we should always try to use blue in link's text. That's can be taken like a standar.

But, is there a standard which says for what stuff we should use link, or in which scenarios to avoid them and instead use buttons, for example?

My question is because I'm starting to get confused with links. I do not know what to expect from them. Sometimes I use the option "Open link in a new tab", but then I get surprised that the link was just a kind of button. Twitter is an example of this frustration for me.

  • I almost wrote an answer but an existing question - HTML buttons vs hyperlinks for navigation - has exactly what I was about to say & what you need. – dnbrv May 9 '12 at 0:19
  • @dnbrv, after posting this question, I found that thread and readed that answare by Michael Zuschlag. It's an amazing response. I contains all I believed. I think we should start to learn about link usage, as we've already learned that blue is the recommended color for them. – Christopher Ramírez May 9 '12 at 14:43

I wouldn't say there is a standard set in stone. Generally I try to only use buttons when something needs to be "submitted" but I commonly find them useful when I want to draw the user's attention or progress a flow.

I would just use what ever is the most clear for your users. Sometimes buttons and linked icons look great but may not be as clear as a simple text link. Some times you need to draw attention with a big flashy button.

Take it on a case by case basis and use what ever makes sense for a given screen/flow.

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