Hyperlink Usability

By Deane Barker on May 21, 2004

Design Guidelines for Visualizing Links: A lot of really good guidelines for hyperlink usability that really boil down to one point: do links the way HTML was built to handle them and you won’t have any problems. Ninety-nine percent of usability problems on the Net are a result of people trying to get cute.

Don’t underline any text that’s not a link, even if your links aren’t underlined. Reserve underlining for links. Because underlines provide a strong perceived affordance of clickability, users will be confused and disappointed if underlined text doesn’t have an actual affordance to match this perception.



  1. So… What about book titles?

    As far as I’m concerned, Jakob Nielsen has his moments, but is generally a kook. There are plenty of other practical usability experts that aren’t so draconian; providing good usability advice and still letting you be artistic.

  2. So… What about book titles?

    Italicize them. You should only underline book titles when italic text isn’t available.

    Although I still that Nielsen is a kook. It’s only a matter of time before his slow descent into madness is complete.

  3. I’ve read just about everything Nielsen has ever written. And while “Designing Web Usability” fundamentally changed the way I build Web pages, I’ve found everything else to be confusing and contradictory. I think Nielsen himself could build a Web site then tear it apart for “usability violations.”

    I actually met him once at an intranets conference in Silicon Valley back in 2001. Very personable guy.

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