Many of the newer cool phones are moving to a touch screen only interface (iPhone, G1 [when closed], Storm, etc). They are also supporting the ability to view the same websites that we design for the desktop. This is naturally pretty cool in that they get all those bells and whistles we designed and we don’t have to create a second version of our site specifically for them.

The other day I was on my iPhone, navigating around a site where some of the links didn’t look like links and you wouldn’t think they were links by their placement. I’m going to guess that the designer thought:

  1. These links aren’t very important
  2. The user can use their mouse to hover over things to find what is a link and what isn’t (making the user do extra work isn’t very nice btw)
  3. The user can tab to these links and will discover them that way (still not very nice)

Well as an iPhone user, the links were important, I didn’t have a mouse (cursor really as I can still click), and I didn’t have a tab with which to hop around. The only reason I clicked on them was because I was familiar with the site and knew they were there.

In this new world where mobile devices can see our regular sites, we need to be even more diligent in going back to basics of making sure links are easily viewable. As I mentioned above, it’s not very nice to expect a user to move their mouse over any given word to see if it is a link or not. Our senior generation can’t see subtle differences in color. Now we have devices that don’t have a mouse as we currently understand it and can’t hop between links with a tab key or joystick.

There naturally needs to be a fine line between big bold links and design. I wouldn’t want my page littered with default blue underlined links everywhere. But skewing too far to subtlety, while more aesthetically appealing, may not be very user friendly in general, and out right unusable on these newer devices.

posted by Aaron Barker on Monday, Dec 01, 2008
tagged with links, mobile, usability