a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Don't Click Here: The Art of Hyperlinking


I agree with most of your guidelines, except the “Click Here” removal. I would love to remove it from some of the sites I work on, however whenever I do, my clients contact me that they are bombarded by emails from people not able to figure out what to do anymore. Sounds silly I know, but I see I am not alone from other comments here.


I’ll add one - don’t use Javascript-based links unless REALLY necessary, as they don’t work well for people who like to open links in a new tab. Drives me nuts.


sorry if someone else has pointed this out, but your blog violates #10 of your rules: Don’t mix advertising and links. The ads below each post are the same font and the links look the same and are visually indistinguishable from your blog post text save the slight indentation on either side.

Good post.


Hey, kids, explain to me how these ostensibly real users who simply give up if a link does not include the text “click here” actually use the Web, since most hyperlinks demonstrably do not include that text.

These people are simply going to have to learn absolutely the most basic task of Web browsing: Selecting (not necessarily “clicking”) a link. It’s up to them to learn this essential skill. It isn’t up to us to write shitty pages that make them feel better.


I’m a recent convert to the pro “click here” camp. In the blast emailing I do for clients, I’ve found that click through rates improve by a statistically significant amount when we use “click here to blah blah blah” as opposed to “blah blah blah” by itself.


“HTML is precisely what we were trying to prevent – ever-breaking links, links going outward only, quotes you can’t follow to their origins, no version management, no rights management.”

I must say, I’m kind of glad that Ted Nelson’s vision never got realized. If links were to automatically go two ways, think about a million spam sites forcing you to host links to them just by linking to you. Or if you link to one document and somebody moves it to a slower mirror. Or every single time you used the phrase “there’s one born every minute” it would force you to link to the PTBarnum domain, currently owned by a spam-happy domain squatter.

There’s a heck of a gap between our rosy vision and what actually happens in practice.

But I rabidly agree with #4. ANY pop-up, no matter by hover or click, is an instant refresh though adblock and view;no-style option. In fact, POP-UPs are EVIL, everybody! I don’t care if they stop global warming and cure cancer; do not use the dripping-with-evil pop-up spawn of Satan! (extra bangs for added drama: !!!)


Maybe “Click Here” is one of those “yes, but this one goes to eleven” things. You only use it when you really, really, really need people to click that particular link.

I still don’t agree, and the only actual data supporting the efficacy of Click Here is that copyblogger example-- which was gathered from email newsletters, not web pages.



#4 is simply awfull
They are the new “pop-up” windows.

When I use the page down button, mouse wheel, or arrow key to scroll, I want to continue reading the main text. These pop ups force me to find my mouse pointer and place it someplace, where I hopefully won’t experience any more pop ups. Heaven forbid I should move my mouse around much or I am bound to step on more of these hidden land mines.


Thanks for the list. Very useful.
I do have a question for you and the other readers. You touched on it in number 9. Don’t hide the links. I agree with what you say here, but I recently had a disagreement with a coworker who was reviewing my application and made the statement that EVERY LINK on EVERY PAGE should have an underline. I disagreed and was shot down. I was not complaining about the work. It was only a few lines in the css file to impliment. However, if you look and Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and other big name web sites that have millions of uses, they do not follow any rule that says EVERY LINK on EVERY PAGE should always have an underline. I was already using an underline on the hover over event, and changing the background color for the cell. They felt that was not enough, and was inconsistant. Thay said, that if you underline one link on the site, you should underline every link all the time.

So I guess my real question is what do you think of the rule that some want to make that “EVERY LINK on EVERY PAGE should have an underline”?


Unfortunately, you live in a world of developers and power-users, as does everyone writing a blog pointed at web developers. Us actual web developers that have non-geek target audiences have to live by a different set of guidelines.

Like me, for example.

I work for a large healthcare company as the sole web developer. My audience isn’t a willing one. We provide incentives to use our website instead of calling us, so the doctor’s mandate that their secretaries use our website. The secretary persona, “Betty Sue” as we like to call her, would rather call. Heck, Betty Sue would rather write things down on paper then EVER user a computer. She hates computers and they hate her.

Betty Sue may be old or young, bright or dim. She could be male or female, friendly or grumpy. But in all cases, Betty Sue hates computers and gets visibly uncomfortable when someone says “internet.” The only thing she likes and (barely) understands is email.

Take it from someone that deals with scores of emails from Betty Sue people every week: Use “Click Here” so they will stop complaining about “WHERE THE LINK TO IT I DONT SEE IT ON YOUR NET PLEASE”.

Also, if a deadline is coming up quick, use tables for layout. I’m sure some of you have weeks to study CSS and learn its ridiculous quirks so you can make a 3-column layout with a fluid center column in your sleep. For the rest of us, there’s a big table that also happens to render well in IE, FireFox and Opera.

It just goes to show that you, Jeff, along with your fellow heads-in-the-clouds bloggers, have lost touch with the rest of the world of developers in the slave pens and the real-world users.


@Justice - I’m pretty sure if you go to your blog configuration settings you can turn off click-through tracking. That will “fix” your hyperlinks.

Of course you can fire back at Jeff (who is not using DasBlog)… when I hover over your linked Name in your comment I see some URL that points to codinghorror.com, but when I click I go to your home page.


Totally agree. I hate the site with annoying popups and hidden links. Too many hyperlinks diminish the value of the page content. Nice post.


I still don’t agree, and the only actual data supporting the efficacy of Click Here is that copyblogger example-- which was gathered from email newsletters, not web pages.

Jeff, can you provide one logical argument that indicates why copy contained in an email differs from copy on a web page? I’d say you can’t. Including “click” in anchor text boosts response (as Marketing Sherpa tested) because it tells less-web-savvy people (and even Sherpa’s more sophisticated crowd) exactly what to do. A link is a link wherever it appears… and people click more when click appears.

And if you can come up with something that I haven’t thought of in the last 10 years, what if the email is web-based (like most email is these days)? Does that change your answer? Why or why not?

Regardless of the sophistication of the audience, “click” is psychologically suggestive of the desired action. You may like to believe that basic human psychology doesn’t apply to you, but most people aren’t writing for you.


[Roger] 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.

Do you have little stickers on all the doors in your house saying ‘push here to gain access to the room on the other side’? How about in a large office block - let’s remove all those handy signs on the doors, and just have hundreds of identical signs saying ‘Office door’, I’m sure that will help people find their way around.

OK, so those are bad analagies but, if people don’t understand cliackable links, how did they manage to open their browser in the first place, or navigate to your site?


See also:
Cool URIs Don’t Change

Cool URIs for the Semantic Web

How to Publish Linked Data on the Web

Evolving the Link


Oops, missed one:



re: 3. Don’t link everything. Anybody else noticed that some of the news/commentary sites are now generating automatic links from “hot words”? Salon.com is a really great site, but every few words one is hyperlinked to http://salon.com/topics/the_hyperlinked_word, and it’s a royal pain in the…


Sorry, don’t quite see the harm in “click here.” And when dealing with an audience that is not always very computer savvy (which is a very broad one—I am an academic and deal with academics daily, no more than one in ten has anything of what I would consider real competance with basic computer functions), something as dumb and direct as “click here” is less likely to trigger confusion that contextually hiding the link in a paragraph. My clients are less concerned about aesthetic purity than they are in things being straightforward. “Click here for X” is, I think, more straightforward than having just “X” and a link that they must hover over to see if it’s the page or file they are looking for.

As an aside, I think icons for every little stupid link is dumb, but icons denoting unusual filetypes can be useful. PDFs I like to see specially called out since they can be quite a strain on the browser and the bandwidth (which is Adobe Reader’s fault more than anything else, but alas). Icons are not the only way to do this (I usually just write, “PDF file, X MB” next to any such links to people know what they are getting), but I think just relying on hovering is not always great.

And lastly – obviously ad-links are bad form but nobody puts them up thinking they are good form, do they?


One more thing – Remember that the status bar on web browsers is disabled on many popular ones by default. I’ve no idea why that would be the case, but I’ve often had to enable it on the computers of the web-unsavvy.

Surfing the web without being able to see what is underneath a hyperlink is like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where he is thrusting his hands into all of those cubby holes full of bugs and things like that.


@Matthew Keane: Excellent question. The answer is to contain the action and the content in the link. Dumb users LOVE long links!

Using curly braces instead of lt/gt signs:

{a href=‘whatever.pdf’}CLICK HERE to download the TTR report (PDF){/a}

Dumb users will see “CLICK HERE” and “TTR report” and click there. Average users will recognize (PDF) and right-click to save it to their desktop. Smart users will complain about “CLICK HERE”. But in all cases, every single person FOUND the TTR report!

If the world was full of walls that looked exactly like doors, and you never really knew what universe you would walk into when you crossed the threshold, you better believe every door would be labeled with the most brain-dead instructions possible.

We already label our doors push/pull and even the smartest of us get that wrong sometimes o_O;