'Click here': Needless words

The words “click here for...” and “click here to...” serve no purpose within links. Unfortunately, many news sites still use them. According to Google, “click here” is on about 8,970 pages at alone.

Perhaps when the Web was just catching on — in 1995, say — writing “click here” within links made some sense, to teach new surfers the Web’s fundamental interface element. But those words are meaningless, especially today when people have already learned that clicking links takes you to a page described within the link.

Everywhere those phrases appear, Web editors or developers could have followed William Strunk Jr.’s classic advice to “omit needless words.” For example:

  • “Get the scoop on more than 700 restaurants throughout the five boroughs. Click Here.” could be “Get the scoop on more than 700 restaurants throughout the five boroughs.”
  • and other Knight Ridder sites: “Click here to visit other RealCities sites” could be “Visit other RealCities sites” or just “Other RealCities sites.”
  • “Weather in your ZIP code. Click here to sign up!” could be “Weather in your ZIP code. Sign up!” or just “Weather in your ZIP code.”

Many other news front pages use the unnecessary words, among them:

  • “It's easy to follow the top stories with home delivery of The New York Times newspaper. Click Here for 50% off.”
  • “USA Today newspaper delivery Click Here” and “ E-mail Newsletters Click Here
  • “Weather is not available for the zip code you selected. Click here to change your ZIP”
  • “Click here for cell phone alerts”
  • “WNY Web Cams: Click here for more cams!”
  • “Visit our NEW Health Beat site for the latest medical news, webcasts, and advice from doctors.[CLICK HERE]
  • “Click here to make the Times-Dispatch your Home page.”
  • “Subscribe to The Journal News.... Click here to start finding out HOW YOU KNOW.” (This one is especially stupid, because clicking on the words “click here” won’t even do anything. You’re supposed to click the animated GIF image above the text.)

At large news sites these wasted words are mainly in promotional copy. But there are still many small sites, like North Carolina’s Washington Daily News, where headlines are not links but a “For more click here” link follows each story tease.

Television stations do not tell viewers how to operate their remote controls. Newspapers do not instruct readers in removing papers from delivery bags. It’s time news Web sites stopped telling readers how to operate links.

Comment by Andrew Demack, posted November 18, 2002, 1:59 am

I thought they were needless words too, until my mother-in-law looked on my site for some holiday photos that I had told her were there. She couldn't find them and wrote me a baffled e-mail.

The exact text of the weblog entry:

"Well, Annette took the photo album to work, and scanned away during her lunch hour, or something.

Here's the result!"

As you can guess, "here's the result" was a link. So who do web sites design for? I think they may have to sitck with lowest common denominator for a while.

Comment by Eric Vitiello, posted November 18, 2002, 3:10 pm

"here's the result" were nearly useless words as well... "scanned away" or "took the photo album to work" would have been nice as links to the results as well.

Comment by snowsuit, posted November 20, 2002, 2:05 pm

no offense, but how do you balance usability and stupidity? My mother can hardly use the phone and its been around since 1910-ish. When the call-waiting beeps she panics and hits every button on the keypad. If we need click here text, then shouldnt we really put click here with the left mouse button using your hand while simultaneously hovering over this exact spotNote: cursor may change to a hand sharpe So, I hope this doesnt sound meanspirited, but we do have to balance usability with a small level of user intelligence.

Comment by Adam Greenfield, posted November 27, 2002, 9:34 am

I hate to say it, but here's one of those rare instances where style should take a backseat to marketing. As any Mad Ave type could tell you, "click here" is what is known to the trade as a "call to action." When expressed as an imperative, advertisers all know that such calls significantly increase the effectiveness of their efforts.

I'm willing to bet cash money that linked text featuring an explicit call to action have a higher click-through rate than the otherwise-identical text omitting same.

Comment by Mark Thristan, posted November 27, 2002, 11:01 am

I believe that the call to action should be implicit in the link, so that the text of the link becomes performative text.

Therefore not "click here to buy the camera", but
"buy the camera". "Buy the camera" is a call to action and a link. Style should never take a backseat to "marketing" when it is demonstrative and linguistically useful.

Comment by AG, posted November 27, 2002, 9:17 pm

Mark, I actually disagree. "Buy the camera" is only a call to action if the *immediate* result of clicking on the link is a purchase event. I think there's a slight cognitive disconnect if you're asked to buy a camera and the resultant action is that a page loads.

I know this sounds nitpicky, but I remain convinced that at least to some degree this is why "click here" remains with us.

Comment by Mark Thristan, posted November 28, 2002, 4:36 am

Adam, yes I agree that "buy the camera" is not strictly performative in the sense of this being the only action required to complete the task.

However, all purchasers are aware of the fact that transactions require a transactional process. When you go to a shop, to buy the goods, you expect to queue and then pay at the checkout for your purchases - this is implicit in the sense of "buy". For this reason, I feel that "click here to..." is very much akin to having a sign that says "queue here to wait to pay" rather than just labelling as "checkout". So long as the labelling is careful and consistent (which, agreed, it isn't always on the Web), language and function can occupy the same space.

There might be rare instances where "click here..." ought to be used, however, I believe all alternatives should be explored and exploted before settling for this option.

Comment by josh, posted November 29, 2002, 2:53 am

Novice users are constantly trying to figure out what they should click on. "Click Here" labeling makes that easier. I do usability tests every week and I consistently see novice users struggle with even very clear underlined links, "Where do I click?"

Did I mention that this makes me furious!

Comment by STW, posted December 4, 2002, 10:13 am

In addition to this article's points, "Click Here" is also less useful to sight-impaired users who rely on screen reading technologies to access the Web. One capability of such software is to read only the links on a page, but hearing that the link text of the various links consists of "click here, click here, click here" offers no information about where the links are pointing.

Comment by Peter Birtolo, posted December 4, 2002, 4:41 pm

The "novice user" issue is a very real one. I suppose if ALL links were blue and underlined, things would be simpler sooner. As web design and software have grown, the underlined blue link has taken a back seat to design. While well-done "design" is easily deciphered by experienced users, the novice still has trouble. Another thought ... will there ever come a time when novice users are no longer novice? In other words, will there come a time when the novice represents less than 10% of the users? And without the "click here" notation, how will they learn?
Perhaps users will someday need licenses to surf pages for "experienced browsers only." :-)

Comment by Dawn, posted December 4, 2002, 9:41 pm

Thank you for posting this. I love this topic! I am firmly in the author's camp here - I don't think the words "click here" are the best choices when creating links. The chosen hypertext should give users the right expectation of what they will be getting when they click on them. "Click here", when used alone, is one of the worst ways to do this. This forces users to read the rest of a sentence so they can decide whether or not to click on the link. Since most users scan pages rather than read them, if a page is littered with a bunch of "click here" links, that's what will catch the users' eyes.

Maybe its due to snobbery, but I don't think the wiords are necessary when combined with other words in a link. (like "click here to order") It just doesn't read like a call to action - "Order now" would be a better choice. The addition of the two words makes the call to action lose some of its meaning...or at least its punch. It just doesn't sound as strong.

Comment by Richard, posted December 10, 2002, 8:46 am

It took me ages to work how out to post this comment. If only it had said "Click Here to Post A Comment", I'd have been fine.

Comment by Ray, posted January 2, 2003, 12:35 pm

I can see that click here might be useful for novices - perhaps it could be used once or twice on the homepage for 'educational purposes', but thereafter dropped?

From a usability point of view, I find that click here links draw the eye, but that it is then necessary to scan back and forth to get the context. If the relevant text is itself linked, the user should be able to see exactly what the link is about without scanning or further information gathering. Or am I wrong?

Comment by josh, posted January 20, 2003, 11:54 am

Went to lunch the other day and noticed that every button on the soda dispenser was labeled "push here".

Comment by Markus, posted February 21, 2003, 2:45 pm

Is "click here" not the web equivalent of "Call 1-800-XXX-XXXX" on TV commercials or other advertisement? What else but call would you do with a phone number? And phones have been around much longer than the web. In a way, "click here" or "call" are a means to invoke an action from the reader or viewer that a link or phone number do not. Just wait until true interactive TV is amongst us, we will now be asked to "Click here to go there", "Click her to email", "Click her to start a voice call".

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