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Don't Click Here: The Art of Hyperlinking


#4. Why, why, why do people insist on using that “snapshot” plugin? It’s a terrible, horrible thing that should disappear forever.


On the real web 2007, hyperlinks are made for the benefit of search engines as much as for end users. Between (1) making sides spiderable, (2) pagerank, and (3) the inclusion of link anchor text in document vectors, web creators care a lot about how hyperlinks interact with search engines.

This is probably a bad thing. Engadget is part of a network of sites that link to each other, but link as little as possible to the outside. Wikis and blogs like this one are targeted by link spammers, so they use the “nofollow” attributes. The war for search engine ranking makes me less likely to link to competitive sites, even if they’ve got worthwhile content that my users would like see.

As for blending hyperlinks and advertising, I must admit that that is one of the most effective ways to monetize your site. Owners of sites with as little as PR4 can make $10-$100 a month or more selling links. Often that’s better that you’re going to do with adsense or other advertising networks. Does it make the web worse? Yes. Yet, it costs money to keep web sites going and it costs money to make content, and unfortunately the means available for monetizing sites don’t work well for many people.

For instance, it’s not hard to make enough money with adsense to pay the expenses of hosting a website (let’s say $20 a month.) To pay the wages of a content producer, you need more like $2000 a month – that’s a factor of 100.

That’s a pretty big gap, and it gets filled with garbage: splogs, MFAs, lolcats and other worthless content that’s cheap to produce.


Great article for beginners and experts. Bookmarked and will reference in future website builds. Thanks!


It may be a matter of personal preference, but I think all supplemental links should open in a new window. For instance, the links in your blog entries open in the same window, which is very frustrating if I’m still reading the blog and I want to open the link without interrupting. My only other options are to open it, read the supplemental, then return to your blog and try to pick up where I left off, or wait until I’m done with the blog and go searching for the link I wanted to open.

Sure, I can right-click and select “Open in new window” or I can just center-click as I have been for the last 5 years with Firefox, but that’s expecting far too much from the average user. I still know a lot of users who think they have to double-click a link to make it work.


“Click here” isn’t bad unto itself. The biggest problem with “click here” has to do with poor wording. When people use “click here” on their web page, they usually have poor wording:

*Click here* to download version 2.0.

What is important in the above sentence is “version 2.0”, but it plays second fiddle to the “click here”.

I also don’t like “mailto:” links. Not only do they start up your email program (if it isn’t already started), but I might not even want to use that email program. For example, I use Gmail and a client based mail system. Many times, I want to email the person back via Gmail. Unfortunately, I can’t easily get the email address with a “mailto:” link.

Whenever I have a “mailto” link, I put the email address, and then put the link on the email address. That way, the user knows it is a mailto link, and has the option to use an alternate emailer than their default.


Here is an excellent example of making links behave improperly:

And here is a Microsoft example of making the tiniest links inside the biggest expanse of clickable space possible:


Uh, you don’t cite any basis for many of your recommendations. Actual research and data contradicts your anti “click here” recommendation, for example. You get more click throughs with a clear action message than an unclear link title such as “continue on…”, as used in some blog engines currently.



Today’s post was excellent. #5 annoys the hell out of me each and every time I see it.

The only comment I have is on #9 - Don’t hide your links. I noticed on your Twitter page (http://twitter.com/codinghorror), your links styled almost identically to normal text.

It’s just something I noticed that seems applicable.

Oh a side note, excellent blog! I’m a first time commenter, long time reader.


Holy crap, I made it onto an Atwood post!! I think I need to change my pants!

All of the laundry dealings aside, I wanted to mention that in my defense, I’m pretty sure the blog engine I’m using is causing part of that linkage.


Regarding preview windows (#4), we may have a situation similar to “click here” (#5)-- something that experienced users and developers abhor, but that most surfers actually appreciate. I don’t really want to believe it either, but see Anil Dash’s comments at http://community.livejournal.com/no_lj_ads/70965.html?thread=1515829#t1515829 .



My posse suggests that you submit a patch to Dasblog to fix this issue!!



What do you think about target="_blank" link behavior? It was removed from XHTML standard, but I think it serves it’s purpose. I hate clicking on a link half way through a post that takes me away from it. Just wanted to hear what the general consensus was on links that open up in new windows (or in my case using Firefox, new tabs).


I think if you wanted a user to download a file, just have a huge image saying DOWNLOAD.

nuff said.


In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need “Click here.” However, there are a lot of people on the web who haven’t been doing it for a long time and honestly need help knowing where to click. It doesn’t always look the best and I personally would rather not have it, but I believe that in terms of usability it is necessary.


Going to have to disagree here. I changed a few important links on a site I maintain to “click here” types, and phone calls have gone down. Downloading a PDF is exactly what is happening here. If you just say “download the PDF” they wonder “how?” I changed it, problem went away. Not all sites cater to the web-savvy. I should think that the people needing the accessible version of my site (and I made darn sure it was fully usable to them) will understand when they have to make a small sacrifice to help out another group of people.

On the other topic, maybe when we get a real web application framework that everyone uses, we can bring target="_blank" back to xhtml. I’ve just reversed my stance on total HTML strict compliance and have gone back to new windows for things like PDFs.


dont do this, dont do that ! looks so catholic/religious.
what about free will? :smiley:
anyone has to learn by he’s own


re: “Click Here”

You might disagree with Jeff, but Jakob Nielsen doesn’t:


…which he also discusses in depth in his book “Prioritizing Web Usability”.

Contrary to what many here are saying, people do know how to find links if they’re properly identified. Saying, “Click here worked for me!” might be glossing over the problem that your link colour is too close to normal text for example.

Is there some other published research to the contrary? If so, please link it. Otherwise, I’m sticking with Nielsen (and Jeff).

Regarding opening links in a new window:

  • Only a good idea for things like attachments (re: Erik’s post above on PDFs). Window management is the purest form of excise - don’t force more windows on people. Yes I know Firefox and Safari make new tabs, but the world uses IE6/7.

  • A lot of people do it in the misguided notion that it will keep people on their site. It doesn’t. Don’t do it.

Great posts Jeff, keep 'em coming!


Very nice guidelines. I’ve followed a couple over the years and will work to incorporate the others as well as they all seem very useful.

One note on your own hyperlink usage as it relates to number 3 (as well as other “pot calling the kettle black” comments), I don’t find it to be overly excessive. Furthermore, I find it very useful to have some “background” or further reading on the topic linked. Many of the links I’ve visited from your various articles have provided me with very useful information that was beyond the scope of the original article. Finally, if I want to view that which is linked, I throw it into a new tab and continue reading the current page; that way I can view the information later and still continue on with the post at hand.

So, kudos for the insights into hyperlink history, the useful guidelines, and overall for a great and informative blog. And please continue adding hyperlinks to your articles.



I think the comments section on your blog has lost it’s meaning. Too many comments. And from what I can tell, you’re too busy researching topics to “authoritate” on that you don’t even have time to read/comment yourself. Let alone anyone else. I don’t think anyone is reading the comment thread; just throwing logs on the fire.

Plus, you’re playing it too safe these days. Guess the ad rev must be too good to screw up? Where’s your piss and vinegar these days boy? Huh?


nickf: no, the problem is that people with screen readers don’t get links in context.

They listen to the content of the page, and then they can choose to listen to all the links on the page in sequence… choosing after each one is read whether to follow the link or not. So they get “click here” pause “click here” pause “click here”.