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This question is related to a meta post on Academia.SE on the practice of changing in-text references to widely known sites to hyperlinks.

For example (from this post), is

I use a tool to block certain applications (like Facebook and Twitter). Furthermore I set goals for myself and hold myself accountable (created a weekend project for that).

better than

I use a tool to block certain applications (like Facebook and Twitter). Furthermore I set goals for myself and hold myself accountable (created a weekend project for that).

?

From a UX point of view, are these hyperlinks generally considered useful/harmful? Are there guidelines with respect to when text should be hyperlinked and when it should not?

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...Wanted to just leave a short comment, but apparently I'm not yet allowed to, so I'll leave an answer instead... Also, I'm apparently unable to post all the awesome links I had in here originally :\

I found little empirical data for UX hyperlinking best practices (couldn't link to it anyway), but find the practice of gratuitous links to everything, including well-known sites, to be annoying, distracting, confusing, and to serve little purpose.

Perhaps people think it boosts search engine ranking, but that's not the case (only inbound or "backlinks" count, so your outbound ones should link to your own content on another part of the site).

Unless you're linking to specific, relevant information or citing a source from that well-known site, there's no need for a hyperlink. If you're using the internet and are over the age of 12 you know what Facebook is.

From a practical standpoint, why include links to any content outside your own site? All that serves to do is drive users away, and in this case to well known sites probably they visit anyway.

Another consideration is that there's no reason to believe such a hyperlink actually goes to such a "well-known" site - it could just as easily be a malicious attempt to send people to (Not) Facebook.

  • If you can just paste the URLs you had issue with, to sites or images, someone else can help you link them via an edit to your question. All abilities should unlock in short order with more rep. – Evil Closet Monkey Sep 16 '14 at 17:44
  • Thanks, but I already deleted them from the draft. No worries. A little confused that I start out w/100 but can't do things that require 10... Ah well. – mc01 Sep 16 '14 at 17:45
  • Let me know if you ever get a chance to come back and add these "awesome links" you speak of :) – ff524 Sep 17 '14 at 7:33
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From a UX point of view, are these hyperlinks generally considered useful/harmful?

I think 'harmful' is too strong of a word. At worst, they are maybe visual distractions.

But you're asking the right question, and I think that's all you really need to do. Is it USEFUL to link to Facebook within the text of your page? Do you think users have a need to visit Facebook while reading your site?

My gut reaction is, no, probably not. Odds are they already have Facebook open in a separate tab anyways.

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Generally speaking you should not do something the user is not expecting. Be that perform an action that wasn't expect when they hit a button (e.g., exit & save when I hit a button just labeled "save") or modify the formatting of a post I put in.

I wouldn't say it is harmful, but it would not be helpful either to auto-link "well known" sites.

For example, where will I go if I click on this 'Facebook' link:

I saw this great page on Facebook recently!

... but what about this one:

I saw this great page on Facebook recently!

... and finally:

I saw this great page on Facebook recently!

Looking at #2 & #3, what should the reader's expectations be for the links? What was the author's original intention, and did the auto-parser change it?

Auto-linking direct link (e.g., http://www.facebook.com) is common, and generally useful as it would save a highlight/copy/paste. StackExchange does it, and in the image below you can see that vBulletin (a popular form software) does it too:

enter image description here

But is also gives the author the ability to turn it off, as the intention in the post may not be to have them linked.

Thankfully the auto-parsing of smiley faces is unchecked by default, so my in-line :) is not auto-parsed to a horrible img which I did not intend.

Assuming user (or author) intent can lead to a poor user experience. In this specific case the potential annoyance is small, but when results do not match intentions things can get messy in many situations.

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