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Designate Visited and Unvisited Links

Document Type: Standard


To designate unvisited links:
  • HHS must use the default blue text link color (#0000FF, RGB (0,0, 255)), or, if the default blue does not fit within the overall design palette, HHS may use a suitable alternative blue color.
If using an alternative blue color, the blue should be of an intensity and contrast sufficient to differentiate it from all other font colors used on the site and easily identify it as link.

To designate visited links:
  • HHS must use the default purple link color (#800080, RGB (128,0,128)).
  • For links that point to the same target, all links on the page or set of related pages must change color to the default purple once the target site has been visited. 
Link behavior:
  • Whether visited or unvisited, links should underline only on hover. When no hover, there should be no underline.


Link colors help users understand which parts of a website they have visited.  According to several studies, providing this feedback helps improve users’ speed in finding information. In addition, the blue/purple color convention and underline behavior is considered a common experience for users on the Web.  By following long understood conventions, we reduce users’ confusion and improve their overall success rates.


Navigational elements of the site are exempt from the visited-link color modifications. These areas include: main/primary navigation elements, their respective dropdown menus, left/local navigations, global navigations, and footer links. As navigational elements of the site, color modifications in these areas may become distracting as well as unnecessary for users wishing to revisit these areas.  Following are examples:


  • Evans, 1998
  • Nielsen and Tahir, 2002
  • Nielsen, 1996a
  • Nielsen, 1996b
  • Nielsen, 1996c
  • Nielsen, 2003
  • Spool, et al., 2001
  • Tullis, 2001