Nielsen: Page Anchors are Bad

By Deane Barker on February 21, 2006

Avoid Within-Page Links: He’s going to have a tough time dictating this one I think. These things have been around forever and they’re all over the place.

After experiencing a few within-page links and Back button clicks, most users are completely confused about where they are on a site. Our studies also show that such links typically waste far more time than they save because users click back and forth multiple times and repeatedly review the same material.

There is hope, though:

Using named anchors to link to a specific place on a different page is not as bad as using within-page links on a single page.

When you link to a named anchor on a different page, you retain four of the five expectations in users’ mental model: they navigate, the old page disappears, a new page loads, and they click Back to return to the old page. The fifth expectation is the only problem: instead of going to the top of the new page, users are typically dumped into the middle.