Boycot the underline
Written February 3, 2009. 8 comments.
To many people the humble underline has been used as a form of emphasis, and while once upon a time it was OK, the advent of the web browser has made this practice a usability no-no.
When we’re online, the underline is indicative of a link, a way to communicate to the user that this is something that is actionable – in this case being to reveal more information. How the information is revealed may vary. It may be opening a new web page, an AJAX function that shows more information on the same page, or in the olden days, to launch a pop-up. What’s important though is regardless of the technical implementation, the concept is still the same – to indicate that this is something you activate.
Here’s an example of why it’s confusing to use the underline for emphasis in the content of web pages.
Your cat has fleas, so do not play with your cat!
If you know how to interact with a web page, instantly you believe the words “do not” must link to a page about something related to this sentence. Passing your mouse over those words and trying to interact with it reveals this to be false. This not only momentarily annoys the user, but also casts doubt to the integrity of all underlined words on the rest of your site.
If you want to place emphasis on words, the Internet Gods have kindly provided us with 2 very good suitable means – good old fashioned italic and bold. Or you can do something fancy with CSS.
With this in mind, I’ve always made it a point to remove the ability for my clients (and contributors on my other blog) to use underline by completely removing the option from the Content Management System.Start of page