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10:4 Avoid Misleading Cues to Click

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10:4 Avoid Misleading Cues to Click

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 2 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline




Ensure that items that are not clickable do not have characteristics that suggest that they are clickable.


Symbols usually must be combined with at least one other cue that suggests clickability. In one study, users were observed to click on a major heading with some link characteristics, but the heading was not actually a link.

However, to some users bullets and arrows may suggest clickability, even when they contain no other clickability cues (underlining, blue coloration, etc.). This slows users as they debate whether the items are links.


  • Bailey, R.W., Koyani, S., & Nall, J. (2000, September 7). Usability testing of several health information Web sites, National Cancer Institute Technical Report. Bethesda, MD.
  • Evans, M. (1998). Web Design: An Empiricist’s Guide. Unpublished master’s thesis. Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved May 2003, from
  • Spool, J.M., Scanlon, T., Schroeder, W., Snyder, C., & DeAngelo, T. (1997). Web Site Usability: A Designer’s Guide. North Andover, MA: User Interface Engineering.

Poor Example:

This is an example of misleading the user - blue text and underlined text placed at the top center of the page, and yet none of these are clickable.


These items appear clickable, but are not. This design may confuse users because the items are underlined and are demonstratively different, and thus attract the user's attention.


Two of these graphics are not clickable - if a user mouses over one of them, they are likely to think that they are all not clickable. If one graphic is clickable, they should all be clickable.