Web Designer vs web designer

As an educator and mentor I try to set the expectations of my students. Part of my job is to focus them so they can get the most benefit from the program and have a realistic view of where they will be upon graduation. One way that I do that to help them understand that I’m not preparing them to be “Web Designers.”

Web Designer can be a title. It can also be a skill set. I am a web designer yet my title is Assistant Professor. In addition to my being a web designer I am also an instructional designer. I have worked in industry as a Program Assistant, where I wore many hats. One of the hats I wore in that position was as a web designer. About 30% of my time was allocated to designing and maintaining the program web site.  The rest was distributed across clerical, database maintenance, event planning, desktop support, administration. I want my students to understand that you don’t just bring “one thing” to the table. Web Design is only one tool in the toolbox. My expertise in web design is an asset as an educator.  It makes me more valuable. If students can understand that difference, they can put their learning in context and won’t limit themselves when seeking positions in industry.  Understanding their strengths can give them an edge during an interview.

Why is hypertext blue?

A student asked the design question, “Why is hypertext blue?”

I was able to speculate why as a designer I might have chosen the color blue over another; like red. Red indicates alarm where blue is less intimidating yet still provides a strong contrast with surrounding black text and a white background. However, I could not answer the question in terms of any supporting specification on the W3C (World Wide Consortium) web site.

After some searching, I discovered the following answer from the inventor of the World Wide Web, Lee Berners. The following quote is an excerpt from his FAQ web page…

“There is no reason why one should use color, or blue, to signify links: it is just a default. I think the first WWW client (WorldWideWeb I wrote for the NeXT) used just underline to represent link, as it was a spare emphasis form which isn’t used much in real documents. Blue came in as browsers went color – I don’t remember which was the first to use blue. You can change the defaults in most browsers, and certainly in HTML documents, and of course with CSS style sheets. There are many examples of style sheets which use different colors.

My guess is that blue is the darkest color and so threatens the legibility least. I used green whenever I could in the early WWW design, for nature and because it is supposed to be relaxing. Robert Cailliau made the WWW icon in many colors but chose green as he had always seen W in his head as green.”

Well there you have it. Blue is a default. There was no design decision on the part of the W3C and the reasons for its usage might be more attributed to  decisions of particular browser developers. My guess is that someone used it, it worked, and others reasoned that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sometimes standards come into practice more out of habit than anything else. This may be one of those instances.

Note: If any reader knows for sure, I welcome a comment indicating as such.

References

Berners, Lee (n.d.) Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/FAQ.html