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How to use arrows together with links

Sometimes an arrow character or icon is used together with a link. According to Dmitry from Usability Post, we can use such arrows to mean two things.

1. An arrow placed after a link, pointing somewhere else, is saying "hey, click here to go there." It can be used to direct users to an article page or the next page of some content.

2. An arrow placed before a link is advertising the link itself saying "hey, click this link." It can be used for other types of links that we need to draw peoples' attention to.


  • Should Arrows be Placed Before Link Text or After? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 28, 2008

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95) 



Study of login functions

In a study, UIE had the opportunity to learn how the login functions at different travel sites works.

They found that:

- There doesn't seem to be much consistency across travel site in how they locate their login and whether they use a login form or a login link

- When looking for the login, user seemed to first look for a pair of text fields. If they couldn't find it, they would start looking for a link.

- The location and type of login made no discernable difference.

- Users had trouble when the login feature wasn't visually distinct from the rest of the page

- If two text fields were located close to each other, some users would mistake them for the login form

- Once logged in, a pattern that worked well was to replace the login feature with the user's name and a logout link.

- Users had strong expectations about when the login features should appear. The most successful approach was to give users the option when it was beneficial to them.


  • The Wheres and Whens of Users' Expectations Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 09, 2008

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See also: Research (130)  Forms (30) 



Tell people to click if you want them to click

Is it archaic to tell people to "click here" in online copy? Brian Clark thinks not.

"'s been proven time and time again that if you want someone to do something, you'll get better results if you tell them exactly what to do."

A recent experiment by Marketing Sherpa supports his view. They found that the word "click" had a significant influence on the clickthrough rates.

Here are the clickthrough rates of the wordings tested:
- "Click to continue": 8.53%
- "Continue to article": 3.3%
- "Read more": 1.8%


  • Does Telling Someone to Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 21, 2007

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See also: Persuasive design (23) 



Guidelines for using links vs. buttons

According to Jakob Nielsen, links and buttons have different uses:

- Links are for navigation. They are used to move between pages in an information space.
- Buttons are for actions that cause some chance (e.g. adding a product to shopping cart).

But there are exceptions to the rules:

- Buttons can be used to move from page to page in a workflow process (e.g. "continue shopping" and "proceed to checkout")
- Links can be used for secondary actions with minor consequences.

The so called "command links" have the benefit that we can write longer command names and thus make them more descriptive. To reduce confusion, the link text should explicitly state that it leads to an action by making the first word of the link an imperative verb.

Another benefit to command links is that we can add explanatory text below the link. The text can be presented in a smaller typeface to emphasize its secondary nature.


  • Command Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 16, 2007

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See also: Guidelines and Standards (15)  Forms (30)  Navigation (63) 



Jared Spool on why good content must suck

Hear Jared Spool talk about how to design websites that suck people towards the content they want.

Everyone with the slightest interest in website design should listen to this. Jared is the most knowledgeable usability guy of modern time and in his talk he manages to cover most of his pet topics:

- How people need scent (links containing the words they have in mind) to get to what they are looking for
- How the best links are 7-12 words
- How people don't mind clicking through lots of pages if they just get what they want in the end
- How people love to scroll long pages
- How people love link-rich pages
- How people turn to search engines only when navigation fails

Download the two MP3 files and the presentation slides.


Henrik Olsen - September 27, 2006

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Home pages (9)  Navigation (63)  Talks and presentations (18) 



Do links need to be underlined?

Jared Spool has brought up the good old question about whether links need to be underlined.

He doubts that users are less likely to find what they are looking for at sites where links aren't underlined. People will quickly learn how to spot non-standard links by waving their mouse around to see where the browser gives them "the finger."

But users are trained to click on underlined text. Eyetracking studies show that people dart from underlined text to underlined text in their initial exploration of a page.

If sites have some links underlined and others not, people get confused. Jared concludes:

"We think the visual design element of the underline is not required, but it is cruel to make users work extra hard because you can't decide."


  • Do Links Need Underlines? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 06, 2006

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95) 



Eight usability problems that haven't changed since 1997

Webmonkey has published an excerpt from Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger's new book Prioritizing Web Usability.

In the excerpt, they discuss eight issues that continue to be critical to usable web design:
- Links that don't change color when visited
- Breaking the back button
- Opening new browser windows
- Pop-up windows
- Design elements that look like advertisements
- Violating Web-wide conventions
- Vaporous content and empty hype
- Dense content and unscannable text


  • Excerpt from the book Prioritizing Web Usability Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 20, 2006 - via Usernomics

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See also: Books (47)  Tips and guidelines (95)  Research (130)  Text (24) 



Avoid links that scroll to sections of pages

According to Jakob Nielsen, we should avoid links that scroll to sections of a page, since users expect that links will take them to a new page.

Studies have shown that within-page links typically waste far more time than they save because users click back and forth multiple times to review the same material.

If you must use within-page links, tell the user that clicking the link will scroll to the page to the relevant section.

Only for very long pages, such as long alphabetized lists and FAQs, will the time saved be worth the confusion that within-page links can cause. Also, linking to a specific section on a different page is not as bad as using within-page links on a single page, since the users are taken to a new page.

Ideally, create separate pages for everything that serves as a link destination.


  • Avoid Within-Page Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 25, 2006

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See also: Navigation (63)  Tips and guidelines (95) 



Alphabetized lists are random lists

"Unless you can be absolutely sure that users will know the exact terms in your list, alphabetical order is just random order."

According to Jared Spool, alphabetized lists work for people's name, states, cities, car models, and teams. But they fall apart for things where users don't know the exact wording. Users must resort to the same behavior they need when links are randomly ordered. They must scan every link to make sure they can see what is relevant and what isn't.

Instead, we should use a divide-and-conquer approach by categorizing the items. Once broken up into small groups, it doesn't matter what the order of the links are.


  • Alphabetized Links are Random Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 12, 2006

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See also: Information architecture (15)  Sitemaps (2)  Navigation (63)  Tips and guidelines (95) 



Top Ten Web Design Mistakes 2005

It's time for Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design Mistakes. In 2005 Jakob has asked his readers about their opinion. Here's the result:

#1 Legibility problems due to small fonts and low contrast
#2 Non-standard links that violate common expectations
#3 Flash with no purpose beyond annoying people
#4 Content that is not written for the web
#5 Bad search
#6 Browser incompatibility
#7 Cumbersome forms
#8 No contact information or other company information
#9 Layouts with fixed width
#10 Photo enlargements that doesn't show the users the details they expect


  • The article Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 03, 2005

Permanent link Comments (3)

See also: Forms (30)  Text (24)  Search (27)  Flash (6)  Browsers (3) 

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