Embed links carefully
Where do you put your links?
Embedded links are distracting.
Embedded links like this one can cause problems. Among them:
- They’re distracting. Because they capture eyeballs, embedded links “foster a kind of attention deficit disorder, creating casual, easily distracted surfers instead of committed, engaged readers,” writes Jan H. Spyridakis, professor at the University of Washington College of Engineering.
- They’re discombobulating. Readers will likely read the link first, thus reading the sentence out of order, writes Spyridakis.
- They can lead you astray. Following embedded links “can be the Web’s equivalent of traveling without an itinerary,” write P. Lynch and S. Horton in the Yale C/AIM Web style guide.
Readers may find embedded links less distracting if you place them at the ends of sentences, Spyridakis says.
Embed them anyway.
Still, embedded links are the best approach. Participants in one study at Wichita State University:
- Significantly preferred embedded links to other approaches (links in the margin, links at the top of the page and links at the bottom of the page)
- Believed they understood the material better with embedded links
- Found information as quickly, efficiently and accurately with embedded links as they did with the other approaches
Bottom line: Limit links. But embed the links you use.
Sources: Jan H. Spyridakis, “Guidelines for Authoring Comprehensible Web Pages and Evaluating Their Success” (PDF), Technical Communications, August 2000
P. Lynch and S. Horton, “Yale C/AIM Web style guide,” 1997
Michael Bernard, Sprint Hull and Denise Drake, “Where should you put the links? A comparison of four locations,” Usability News, Jan. 10, 2002