You are not Google. You are not Amazon.

Paul Boag

As web professionals we often look at the success of companies like Google and Amazon, believing that if we emulate them, we will share their success. That is an incorrect assumption.

Google have recently changed their search engine results so that they no longer show underline links. This will inevitably lead to a plethora of website owners and designers using this as an excuse to drop their underlines too. After all if Google does it, surely it is okay?

Actually there is a good argument to say this was a mistake, at least from an accessibility standpoint. After all as the WAI Guidelines clearly explain, relying solely on colour to communicate a links behaviour will create problems for a significant portion of users.

However, I don’t want to get into an accessibility debate or even whether Google was right or wrong in their decision to remove link underlines.

My point is that just because something is right for Google doesn’t mean it is right for your site or the sites of your clients. As my mother would say:

If your friend jumps off of a cliff, would you do it too?

But surely”, I hear you say “Google would have tested the crap out of this decision, why can’t we learn from that?

The problem is that they tested it for their specific circumstances and you are not Google. Google is a site that is used everyday by millions of people. Their users know the site back to front. They know that essentially every element on the Google search results is clickable.

No doubt Google concluded that because so much of the page is clickable it made sense to remove underlines, thereby increasing readability.

However, the chances are that with the exception of your search results page, your site is not just made up of solid links. You are not the same as Google!

Neither are you Amazon. Why is it that every ecommerce site wants to be like Amazon? Again the size and popularity of Amazon enables them to do things that just wouldn’t work on your ecommerce site.

Reviews are a great example of this. Because of the huge user base on Amazon, reviews can work. There are enough people willing to write reviews. But that doesn’t mean users will write reviews for you. You need a large, regular and enthusiastic customer base to make reviews work. Just because Amazon can do it doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Don’t get me wrong. Learning from others is great. However, you have to be so careful that you are learning the right lessons and not just copying blindly.

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