Example – the most basic affordance: clickability

One of the most fundamental affordances in interface design is clickability. The design should clearly indicate what is and what is not clickable. For this reason, it is advised to never ever use underlined text on the Web because it looks like a link when it actually isn’t.

As you look at interfaces, note how each item communicates clickability. What about its design lets you know that a word is clickable, that something is a button – but something else is not?

That’s why Jakob Nielsen maintains that links should always be blue and underlined. That’s a bit extreme, and ruffles visual designers’ feathers, but even if links are not blue and underlined, it should be very clear what is and what is not a link.

Take this example from Blackboard learn. How can you tell if something is clickable or not? Can you tell that the words “graduate handbook” are actually a link? How would you change the design to make it absolutely clear that those words are actually a link?

Click image to enlarge

  1. Format You Link:
    Underline You Link
    Or when hover over the link make its text larger.

    Another way to help user to identify the Link is adding a small link icon after each hyperlink, and be consistence.

    Don’t make the user think, remember the book Don’t Make Me Think.

  2. I think the Blackborad exists some poor design, it confuse its users. For example they cannot tell which is the appropriate file that can be downloaded. Sometime i cannot tell whether there are links under each sub-folder. I think it should be improved in two ways. First give some tags to indicate whether it is a link with extra files. Second, it is better to mark after each clicking file to tell customer whethere they have already downlad or open this document. Using a different color or prompt windows.

  3. Oh, this seems to be the perfect place to criticize the Purdue IT system. In my experience, arbitrary multiple domain without affordable boundary was biggest concern.

    Two example is in my mind.

    1. The course schedule vs the course catalogue
    2. blackboard.purdue.edu vs mycourse.purdue.edu

  4. I tried to click the words you had underlined. I am well trained apparently. When it comes to Purdue systems, I would like to remind us all of the fact that we have two blackboard systems. I have to use both of them for my classes. This does not seem efficient.

    • 1) gotcha! 🙂
      2) I guess they’re keeping two systems while they transition to the new one…? Bb Learn is new.

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