a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Don't Click Here: The Art of Hyperlinking


Back in the olden days – the heady boom times of 1998 – there lived a website full of wonderful content, set in narrow columns, stuffed with laugh-out-loud snark. It was called Suck.com, and it was good.

They had this nifty technique for commenting sidelong on what they were talking about: they would hyperlink certain phrases, with the resulting page often being a devastating commentary on what the thing that was made a link.

I miss those guys.


PL, I am willing to be that the only people who’ve complained about not being able to find links without “click here” are your clients.

I am interested to know how many genuine users have taken the time out to write to you informing you that they could not find the links on one of your websites.

For me, there is no point even trying to explain “Click Here” any more - anyone who uses it flips to bozo bit AFAIC.


Another practice that should get a mention is linking to documents that are not HTML. Specifically, PDFs. When I go a-clicking I expect my travels to be fast. However hiding files that will need my browser to take some time to load up it’s viewer is incredibly annoying.

“Click here for PDF” is much perferrable than finding out that the link I just clicked will require several seconds of load time, PLUS will be an internet dead-end.


Hell yeah, good tips.

I fell for the Snapshots eye-candy trick though, and used it in my blog.
I turned it off a few weeks later however since I managed to piss myself off with it as every link started to spawn one of those bloody preview popups.
We all make mistakes I guess.


Brian: it’s simple, users aren’t expecting to click on links in an email. They read an email, they don’t interact with it.

You’re kidding, right?


One more thing on #7 - the mailto: links should always look (or read) different. I find it quite annoying when three names are hyperlinked and two are home pages but the third is a mailto link. Especially when you’re not on your usual computer and a mailto link means booting up Outlook Express and asking to set up a new account…


I agree with everything except the “Click here” argument. It’s pretty obvious that you’re a power user, and of course your readers are as well. I don’t want to see “Click here” links either, but we are also the people who look at the status bar when we hover over links.

There are a lot of users who are clicking blindly on “Click here”, “Search”, “Go”, etc. and using the back button like crazy when they fail to find what they’re looking for. Using “Click here” in moderation can help these people navigate your site more easily.


I think one the thing you SHOULD do is to include the size of the thing you’re linking to a resource that is more than a few 100K in size, to give people a heads-up. Do they REALLY want to burn 20MB downloading a video of me watering my lawn? I often do it in square brakets after the URL.


Nice write up Jeff.

I’d like to second (or third) what other have said though – the urls for commenters names at your blog, e.g. “http://www.codinghorror.com/mtype/mt-comments-renamed.cgi?__mode=redid=37286” – are too disjointed.

Sometimes i see a name and just want to wave over it to see if it’s the person i think it is – e.g. “Eric… I wonder if that’s Mr Sink? Oh I can’t tell without clicking through… I won’t bother”

I’ve always agreed with the “don’t use ‘Click Here’” advice – but the responses here are interesting and perhaps point to a minialist’s bias… is there any study around the topic?

And there’s no harm in linking to your own back catalogue. I see it as an Atwood trademark, but it’s well deserved, as the material you link to is so appropriate and clever – even if it is your own.

Take care


Add another vote in favor of “Click Here”. I did get real users asking me how to get to a page until I put “Click Here” in the link. Not everybody has been using the web for years like those who are reading this blog.


@Noah Slater
Really ? I’m guessing your one of those people that can’t handle mondays without lashing out at someone.

I’m not even going to comment it further, go back to bed.


Jeff, why does the "Read older entries " hyperlink at the bottom of the blog only point to the next and only the next oldest blog entry that is not shown. Should it not continue to list all the older blog entries in the same manner as the first (front) page?


The negative comments about “click here” seem to show just one thing: that anybody with a more or less perfectionist mindset spending a lot of their time on one topic will invariably develop deep-seated beliefs on everything about their topic. That “Click here” adds clutter can only be an argument for a web-developing minimalist - all normal users don’t care, they’re just happy that they recognize the link as a link (and do note that “Click here” does exactly that: it makes the link stand out as a link).
I agree on pretty much all the other pointers though.

Blue skies


Add me to the list of “Click here” supporters…

I’ve added links to sites that are obviously links to other documents or pages without the descriptive “Click here”…and have received nothing but grief about “where is the link?” kinds of comments.

As has been stated by others, it would be nice if we didn’t have to include them, but just like we need to be concerned with accessibility, we need to constantly be concerned with addressing users that are less than “web-savvy”

But another very nice post Jeff.


all normal users don’t care

I agree.

Sometimes we can’t distinguish between the bad way to do something, or the way I hate.

For example, some people likes always maximizing windows, even having 1 line of text on them, and when asked they say “I am happy this way, so I’m not disturbed with my desktop icons”. Other say, “Look! You are wasting your screen with useless white pixels, instead of filling them with useful information, as other windows, or whatever”. The latter was my thought until I found many intelligent people who preferred the former. I didn’t understand, but I learned to accept their freedom.

I think we can’t take our opinion and try to convert it in a law, just because we love or hate some way of doing.

Those who write laws and say what is good and bad, do they sincerely know when the law is result of an important need or just their own habit/dislike?


From Peter:
“What I think is good is irrelevant as that doesn’t pay the bills - making the customer happy (no matter how wrong they are) pays the bills.”

At the end of the day, yes, if your client isn’t happy, then you’re not going to get paid, but remember that you are (or at least should be) the expert in the field of web design, and you read blogs like this and know what does and doesn’t work. If there is sufficient reason to go against what the client is directly asking for, then you should educate them to show why an alternate method would be better. If you just blindly do everything they say, then they will end up with a website which does not produce sales, and guess who gets blamed for that? Of course, it’s never as simple as that, and sometimes you eventually do have to just do what a picky client says, but you have to try first.

One thing mentioned a few times in the anti-Click Here case is that it doesn’t apply to people with screen readers because they don’t actually click on it. Now, really? That’s like saying that you shouldn’t write “Read this article” because they don’t read it, they listen to it. If someone can’t translate “click here” to “do whatever it is you do to follow a link”… (Though, I think I might be getting this wrong - I’m unfamiliar with how screen readers work, and suspect that they just read out the linked text, maybe?)


I’d also add to the list:

Use the title attribute of an anchor so that it is clear to what you are linking to. Usually the site title and article title are enough, but if you haven’t stated the article content in your document, then provide a sentence or two as well.


Don’t link things the user might want to select and copy. […] Granted, this is not a terribly common scenario […]

As an ebay seller I am constantly having to select linked text to copy my buyer’s email addresses into my mail client so I can search for emails from them. And it’s a bloody pain!

I have to say I actually think it’s the browser that’s at fault here for not making linked text easily selectable. Nevertheless ebay’s UI is a nightmare in just about every aspect.


As far as the click here debate goes do people think you should link from the verb or the noun if you’re not in the link from the “Click here” camp? So for the example in the article should the phrase be:

“Download” our prohibited items brochure


Download our “prohibited items brochure”?


Very interesting article and discussion.

Do you have any thoughts on hyperwords, which allows you to interact with all the words on the web? Not only the hand-linked ones?

NOT a replacement for hyperlinks, but complementary. Any thoughts, comments? http:/www.hyperwords.net