Examining the Role of De Facto Standards on the Web: Here’s an examination of design elements of Web sites that have become “standards,” whether or not we planned them that way. Think of site layout, and what comes to mind — a designer friend of mine once talked of “moving beyond the inverted ‘L’”.
“Several characteristics occurred less commonly than expected. For example, only 45% of pages had breadcrumb navigation, and only 50% of pages used blue as the primary link color. HTML text links were underlined only 62% of the time, and only 37% of pages used a different color to indicate a visited link. With the exception of the company logo in the upper left corner, there was only very loose clustering for the location of common ecommerce functions such as View Cart, Manage Account, and Get Help.”
Jakob Nielsen also did this in the back of his book “Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed.” He had pages that showed, for instance, cropped screencaps of the search boxes on all 50 home pages. It was fascinating.