How Bullets Make Links Easier to Scan

A list of links can look like a big blob of paragraph text if they’re not formatted right. This is evident when you try to scan the headlines on USA Today and LA times. It’s hard to tell that they’re links because they’re not using a link color that’s different from the text color. Not only that, they’re hard to scan because there’s no visual stopping point for each link.

The way to make a list of links easy to scan is to bullet them. CNN and Yahoo News get it right by bulleting their links. The reason bulleting works so well is because when our eyes brush-over a list of headlines the bullets act as an anchor that allows our eyes to move quickly to the beginning of the next headline with ease.

Without the bullets, it makes it harder to find the beginning of each headline. Bullets can also make a list of links look less overwhelming by giving users a holistic sense of how much information is there. By scanning the number of bullets on the left, they can get a sense of information depth.

If your text is black, you shouldn’t use black for your links otherwise users will have a hard time distinguishing them. Instead, use blue to make your links more visible. If users can clearly spot your links, there’s a higher chance they’ll click them.

This simple technique is easy to do and worth the benefits. When it comes to content rich sites, scannability is everything. Be the site that’s easy to scan and format your links the right way.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. rajesh Reply

    True. Using bullets is the easiest way to list links that can be read quickly. And for some extent, I’ve seen indenting helps too. But that requires careful usage of white space around the links.

    Another example I can come upon is – http://www.tomshardware.com/us. Some times it is hard to figure out if the headlines spawns to two lines or not.

    • anthony Reply

      Good find! That example really shows how unscannable stacking links without bullets can be.

  2. Chris Reply

    I always get frustrated by lists without at least some sort of bullet or noticeable line spacing. I see it all the time on free WordPress templates and it frustrates me to no end.

  3. Adam Kochanowicz Reply

    I’ve also noticed amateur web designers like to put too much instruction around links. For instance, you don’t need to say

    “Click here to register the above items”

    (1) “Click here to…” is almost always unnecessary. Most of us can figure out what to do with a link (except possibly in the scenario described above)

    (2) “The above items” may also be unnecessary if they are the only “items” on the page.

    Instead, just write:


    Make it a link. If it’s too small, well…just make it big. You don’t see elevator buttons with signs next to them saying “push this button if you want to…”

  4. ReanimationXP Reply

    I usually agree with almost everything here but I can’t say I agree with this one. In this example, the top-right links are the most clear to me.

    Bullets (or at least, these bullets) make everything look too busy, and imply that the links relate to one another, whereas a list of what are basically small paragraphs are just that.

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