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10:12 Indicate Internal vs. External Links

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 3 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 2 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline




Indicate to users when a link will move them to a different location on the same page or to a new page on a different Web site.


One study showed that users tend to assume that links will take them to another page within the same Web site. When this assumption is not true, users can become confused. Designers should try to notify users when they are simply moving down a page, or leaving the site altogether.


  • Nall, J., Koyani, S.J., & Lafond, C. (2001, January). Lessons learned while usability testing the CancerNet Web site. National Cancer Institute, Communication Technologies Branch Technical Report.
  • Nielsen, J. & Tahir, M. (2002). Homepage Usability: 50 Sites Deconstructed. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing.
  • 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.

Good Example:

Add URL addresses below links to help users determine where they are going. By seeing .gov and .com the user is also alerted to the type of site they will visit.


'Exit disclaimer' graphic informs user that the link will take them to a new Web site.


Clicking an outside link leads to this 'interim' page that warns users of their imminent transfer to a non-whitehouse.gov Web site.