Just the other day, someone asked if I could drop the underlines from links in a design I was working on. It’s a common request and one I’m sure I’ll hear again. Probably soon.
I’m a firm believer in underlining links. It’s their natural state ((A link with no styling in a browser will be blue and underlined)) which says a lot about how ingrained the association between text format and function is. That “recognizability” means links are easy to find when scanning text. For instance, here’s an example I tweeted recently:
— Mark Root-Wiley (@MRWweb) October 13, 2014
In looking for good resources to back up my beliefs, I found two great posts. The first is from Nielsen Norman Group—to which I always seem to link—that lists out the reasons to do this:
To maximize the perceived affordance of clickability, color and underline the link text. Users shouldn’t have to guess or scrub the page to find out where they can click.
The only exceptions are for links in menus or lists, places where the design can indicate “everything here is a link” without underlining.
The second article was a little less detailed, in fact it refers to the first, but really got at how I feel on this issue:
It seems to me – old fool – that the value of underlines is no more or less than what it’s always been: a simple, easy device for ensuring links within body text are easy to identify. A straightforward usability gain that makes little sense to give up.
What do you think? Are underlines really that bad to look at? Is dropping them worth the clearcut loss in usability?