Removing the external link icon


GOV.UK removal of external link icons

Tim Paul, Head of Interaction Design at UK Government Digital Service, published an article at “” on 28 November 2016, explaining the decision to remove external link icons from the “GOV.UK” website.

Paul mentions that the icon was “obscure and ambiguous” – it is often confused with a similar icon that means a link will open in a new window and the icon that people associate with the sharing a link. Since then, many governments and government agencies have removed the external link icons from their websites.

We’d assumed that there was a clear need for the external link icon, but in four years, we’ve seen no evidence that backs this up, so we’re going to stop using it. Tim Paul

What happened next?
The UK Government Digital Service removed all external link icons from the “GOV.UK” website. Other GOV websites followed the lead and pulled the icon.

Other Government Websites
There is no trace of an external link icon on the other government websites.


GOV.UK” website applied the change five years ago, and since then, they haven’t published any external link icon with any content.

Removing external link icons can help us increase the website’s usability and prevent confusion for citizens of NSW when they visit the NSW GOV websites.



Hi @Ashkan.deravi, thanks for your post! Some great work done by GOV.UK. The NSW Design System does not encourage the use of the external link icon so supports your move to remove them.