Breaking usability principles for usability

10 February 2004   3 comments   This site

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In my "blog about Wikipedia"n:/plog/blogitem-040206-1 I mentioned that one thing I didn't like about Wikipedia is that there are too many links that distract you when you're reading. I prefer to read the text when the inline links aren't underlined like they do it on ""n: or ""n:

"Slashdot"n: disagrees with me. Look at this example on Slashdot. So many links that you don't know whether to read it or to click everything.

The convention of good web design usability is that links should look like links. I.e. blue (purple when visited) and underlined. I still wholeheartedly agree to this, but blog articles are exceptions. Normally in blog articles you want to link certain words to ease surfing. That's a good thing, but I say too many links can draw away attention from what is important.

This is why my new solution supports both underlined and not-underlined. Underlined links for things I urge people to click on and non-underlined for all those things that are just references.

Three examples, where the writing objective is to focus on "Search by Location" but you still want to have a reference link to "Google":

This is now a proud feature of my website. It would be interesting to hear what some web design usability experts have to say about this.


People I've watched using new-to-them, evil-graphic-designer-designed sites (not many, I admit) first run the mouse over the page to figure out what's clickable (the pointer turns into a hand).

Once they find one clickable link, they extrapolate the style (highlighted, hand, colour emphasis, whatever) of that link to the rest of the site.

What you're doing is laying two styles (underlined no highlight mouse hand, no underline no highlight mouse hand) onto the same action.

The difference between "important" and "non-important" is opaque to your users (it's a value in your head, not theirs), so from their point of view your just doing it to be a pain in the ass, and violate Rule Number One.

People are used to their links coming in all kinds of styles these days - they're not used to multiple styles within the same site. Pick one you like, and stick with it, IMO.
Point taken. Yes, it might be inconsistent. I'll keep your opinion in mind and might change with time.
i agree that it difficult to read text with a lot of underlined links in it.

however my friend is colour blind and can't spot a link if it is not underlined.

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