Friday, July 31, 2009

Direct Better than Clean

We often see that links embedded in a paragraph should be used on words that describe what the user will see after they click it. A coworker recently shared this post from Dustin Curtis about his personal experience as he modified the text around a link to his Twitter account. He started with simple statements like "I'm on Twitter." with his Twitter account linked from the word "Twitter". He then ended up with the link in a sentence on the word "here", which isn't as elegant of a presentation, but seems to be more effective. He identifies the success of this presentation to the forcefulness of the phrase "You should follow me on Twitter here," and how it directly addresses the person reading it.

I find this interesting because it is definitely not the most sophisticated solution, but if you're trying to get people to act on a link, sophistication may not be what you want. Instead, you need to take the route of advertising, address the broadest range of users, and tell them what they should do instead of hinting at it.

What do you think? Is it more important to cater to the masses even if the design is not as clean, or is there a way to marry the two and have good, effective design that pushes action?


  1. This reminds me of a recent design exploration at 37signals. The final design included this same sort of imperative copy: "Get more done!" And from a business perspective, seeing increases in double digits, they are "thrilled with these numbers".

    In my view, "clean design" will always lose out to "good design" that meets business goals; the best designers will accomplish both.

  2. In my opinion a designers goal should be both. However, if I have to choose, I would choose to get the job done first then focus on cleaning later. A lot of folks would argue that even if it "gets the job done", it may create "waste" issue. So is getting the job done with a lot of waste better than not getting the job done? Definitely a combination of the two is desired, but getting the job done has more weight.


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