CX Insights

The perfect hyperlink: choose your words carefully

4 min read

People often don’t read webpages, but scan them. Good experience designers know this and take good care to provide the user with a clean headline and a prominent call to action. Great experience designers go a step further and adjust their copywriting and links to aid in the scanning. By striking a balance between informative and intriguing wording, people will be enticed to keep reading or explore the rest of the site. Some people will even do both!

Figure 1 - Subject of study - Nescafé

We wanted to test this for ourselves. How will users react to different worded hyperlinks in an otherwise identical website? Have a look at the remote test we have set up.

Success vs. Exploration

A very interesting study on hyperlink wording that was published in the Journal of Information Science in 2005 tested the influence of hyperlink wording on browsing behaviours. The study is based on the assumption that informative worded links lead to faster success, while intriguingly worded links lead to broader exploration. In this study different combinations of generic, informative, and intriguing links in the navigation and embedded in the main body were combined and tested.

The findings show the following: Especially the combination of generic wording in the navigation with informative or intriguingly worded links embedded in the main body resulted in the predicted effects – faster success and broader exploration.

This made us curious. Can we really influence our users actions, their success rate, and how they perceive our content with the words we choose for our hyperlinks?

We set up our own test case to compare generic, informative and intriguingly worded hyperlinks on a website. We also adapted the text around the embedded hyperlinks in order to get more consistent versions.

As subject of study we chose the website of a well known brand; The About NESCAFÉ page contains a clear navigation as well as hyperlinks embedded in the main body. With Photoshop we created three different versions of the webpage.

Generic, Informative, and Intriguing Wording

Following the study over hyperlink wording mentioned earlier, we created three versions of the About NESCAFÉ page with generic, informative, and intriguingly worded hyperlinks. The generic version did not differ from the original webpage. The links and text in the informative version were adapted in order to offer plain but explicit and detailed information. The intriguingly worded version was adapted to a more informal and exaggerated style. In the following you’ll find example links used in the three versions.

  • generic version: “NESCAFÉ coffees”
  • informative version: “NESCAFÉ product range”
  • intriguing version: “Great taste for everyone”

Keeping it short

In our next step we set up the test questions. We only included three test questions to keep it short and to keep our participants motivated. The first and second question focus on where participants expect information on the page. We also want to measure the time it takes participants to decide on where to click and actually click on the screen. We ask participants to find information about the production of NESCAFÉ coffee and a recipe for iced coffee. In the last question we ask participants to mark all elements on the webpage that they think are interesting. This way we hope to gain insight into the perception of different wordings.

Figure 3 - Test questions

Three Test Cases

For every of the three different versions (generic, informative, intriguing), we set up an own test case. All three test cases were identical in their introduction page, test questions and thank you page, only the screen shots were different. We set up a single URL that randomly redirects participants to one of the three tests. Participate in the test yourself and get the chance to win Amazon’s newest Kindle.

Ready to Get Some Results…

After completing the test set up, we spread the link for our test case via our Twitter account and Facebook page. We are excited to gather and analyze the test results. Does the wording influence users’ actions, success rates, and their perception of a website? Please subscribe to our blog to make sure you don’t miss the answer to this question.

Sabina Idler
Sabina was technical writer & UXer @Usabilla for 5 years before she started her own UX research and consultancy firm; UXkids. With UXkids, Sabina leverages her academic research expertise, know how in child development, and strategic vision to help companies build successful digital products for children. You can connect with Sabina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.