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Ecommerce Forum

Underlining links?
Interesting results

 12:58 pm on Jun 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

There's been discussion in other areas of WmW about using CSS to remove link underlining, and the general consensus is that doing so is a bad thing.

I have a testbed site that I use for experimenting, and over a 3 week period I got this:

week 1, no underlining: sales approx 300
week 2, underlining: sales approx 35
week 3, no underlining: sales approx 210

While this hardly constitutes a proper study, it's food for thought. Does the average consumer know or care about link underlining? Do e-com surfers react differently from general surfers?




 5:30 pm on Jun 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

I like this type of info sugarkane. Would you keep updating us :)


 5:46 pm on Jun 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

Am I reading this wrong or do people buy more when links are not underlined :)

Maybe there are other factors involved such as by making it (arguably) less obvious where links to other pages are the customer is driven more to the obvious link (that says buy now?).

Interesting stuff, is there any way to see stats for how often each hyperlink is clicked in each week?


 5:59 pm on Jun 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

> do people buy more when links are not underlined

Looks that way, on this site at least. Your point about pushing them towards the 'buy now' link fits in with my rapidly developing theory of reverse usability ;)

I think there is a good case to be made that you should try to grab the visitor immediately they hit the site and push them towards the sale, giving them little opportunity to get distracted by exploring the rest of the site.

As to the clicking data, I'll try and get an analysis done. Something like the ratio of internal to external referrals could be illuminating - thanks for the idea :)


 6:05 pm on Jun 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

I think not underlining is a mistake. Personally as a user and not as a webmaster, I don't really like it. Some of my favorite pages use it and I am alway realizing I have been missing info that would interest me had I made the conscious thought. ...Gee those words are a different color. Is that a link or is that just a font color change? I guess I will touch it and see. Oh wow, it has turned to a hand, it is a link. Duhhhh. I hate that. Serfers have to keep checking ...Link aahhh not a link. He loves me, he loves me not. oh yeah where was I.

However, if it increases sales that would make it good. Maybe it has it's place. But personally, I don't like it.

Edited by: Vacor


 6:09 pm on Jun 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

Vacor, I agree with you in general. It was just my perverse personality that made me test what effect it had on sales and I found the results surprising :)


 6:13 pm on Jun 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

I would say if you are going to use it, you would have to be the very well organized, non clutter type of webmaster. Otherwise forget it.


 4:19 am on Jun 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

No underlines + hover = effective. People have to hunt for the links and they start mousing over everything looking for them. I question the repeat nature though. I think they'll do it once, but not twice.


 8:03 am on Jun 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

ever since i stumbled on the ability to turn off links I have been doing it

I don think i've ever done a site with underlined links ;)

I can understand what people are saying but as long as the links are used in well constructured pages the user will not need to think 'is that a link?' I have been to sites where the page is clutered and it is hard to tell which links are really links cos they highlight other words.


 8:24 am on Jun 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

Not if they are on a fast connection where pages flip up at a fast rate. If they don't see the info they are looking for and they don't see any underlines, they are back button gone (all in under 20-30seconds).


 8:37 am on Jun 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

>If they don't see the info they are looking for and they don't see any underlines, they are back button gone..

Yep! "Stick to the basics" works for me....



 1:36 pm on Jun 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

I disagree,

I am on a fast connection and i have visited sites before that dont use underlining www.btinternet.com fo one and so long as the designer has done a decent job of constructing the page I really dont see a problem.



 2:44 pm on Jun 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

I'm on a 56k modem and mystery meat sites rarely feature in my menu :)

I will resist the tempation to comment on the bti site ;)

Ramble Tamble

 11:56 am on Aug 2, 2001 (gmt 0)

Color-blind people can't usually recognize
the non-underlined links.

On the public services in many countries,
the law usually presumes that the services are
available for all, including color-blinds.


 12:11 pm on Aug 2, 2001 (gmt 0)

Welcome to the board Ramble. That is well worth remembering. I rarely stick around a site that is heavy graphics or doesn't have links underlined.


 12:56 pm on Aug 2, 2001 (gmt 0)

I noticed that the opera.com site doesn't underline links, but the underline appears on hover. I was using Netscape when I visited last, and since hover doesn't work in Netscape, I was at first a bit disoriented.

But after a very short moment, I had no problem with the site. My mother, however, that would be another story.


 2:12 pm on Aug 2, 2001 (gmt 0)

What about the WMW site? when I first came here finding links in peoples postings was a nightmare... and still is occ.

Mind you I have the underlining turned off, and only appears on hover


 7:50 am on Aug 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

One of the most repected web sites in the world BBC News does not underline links.

I think underlining tends to be a bit passe especially on corporate sites not that they should never be used just that they are not always required.

Personnaly I want to see the web progressing not looking the same as it did in 1984 ;)


 1:59 pm on Aug 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

Totally agree knighty, but I definitly prefer sales over "looks".


 2:02 pm on Aug 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

One of the recent best banner formats is that of replicating text, in blue, underlined - simulating a "standard" link. Users eyes are drawn to underlined links. One of my pet peeves is words that are underlined but are NOT links. I click on them, get fooled, and instantly get a "distrust" of the site.
I would go with the lowest common denominator - within the body text. Nav bars are a different story. Due to format and position, I think the average user can figure out that they are supposed to be links.


 2:06 pm on Aug 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

You could make a test site I suppose, two versions - one with and one without. Ask some test subjects "Find where XXX is on the site" and time how long it takes.


 2:58 pm on Aug 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

I honestly don't think users are more likely or less likely to click on a link wether its underlined or not.

The first few times I visited WMW I tried looking for the search feature and it was not at all obvious, now it would'nt have been any easier or harder to find had 'search' been underlined. But what if it was bright pink, was 4 times bigger than the surrounding text? You would have seen it straight away.

So all i am trying to say is that a succesful link is one that stands out above normal text - one that draws your eye to it. Underlines are very good visual clues - but not everyone thinks underline=link.

If i have a big page of text then i will use underlines, all I want ppl to realise is that as long as you give some visual clue to hyperlinks people will know to click on it. People click on buttons if they look like buttons, people click on links if they look like links regardless of what they look like.

Its all about giving people clues, enough clues to discern what is clickable and what is not.


 9:36 pm on Aug 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

I prefer to give them links that look like links, your average surfer really isn't interested in clues. I believe that folks involved in web design fall into a trap when they begin to learn new "tricks" with HTML and CSS and Js and actually believe the rest of the world is on the same curve. If you really want to know for sure what the average surfer understands, go to Yahoo! and study it. I know it's boring, but it works.

Designing sites to impress other designers and art directors is a throwback to the print medium. Web sites are not static presentations, they are interfaces that visitors need to understand and USE instantly.


 1:32 am on Aug 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

I've tried using all black text on a page with link colored blue links...no underlines.

There are very few people that can't see the difference between black and blue (most color blind is blue/green).

The familiar blue color is a dead giveaway that the word is a hyperlink. If that isnt enough, the hover underlines in blue and highlights the link in yellow. No studies, but no complaints either. Personally, I think it makes the page neater(as in clean or sharp looking).

If you really wanted to do a study, do session based cloaking. When a user visits the site, randomly mark them with a cookie...underline or no underline. Then track the number of pages that user views as well as the purchase amount. Both values are important. It definitely beats having a time (week to week) variable thrown in there as well.


 2:19 am on Aug 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>It definitely beats having a time (week to week) variable thrown in there as well. <<

I agree with that, some sites "die" on legal holidays. If you throw in 4th of July week to the mix, you could get very faulty results. Everyone was off of work for the 4th legally and most had a "sick" day on the 5th. Overall, a bad week to include in any comparisons.


 7:57 am on Aug 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

Just a thought but..

If underlines are so obviously a link then why do some "designers" underline words that are'nt?

I asked my wife who has used the web quite a bit how do you know when a word is a link. She did'nt know.

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