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Make Web Links Meaningful

Web links catch the eye (or ear) and tell a user a lot about the nature of your content; be sure to maximize their potential and avoid user confusion by following these tips.

For more, go to Tips for writing great links and learn about dirty magnets.

Avoid using language that reminds people they're on a website. (Example: "Click here"...) When reading a book, the author does not tell you to turn the page; the same principle applies to the Web.

To avoid text referring to the medium:

  • Indicate the nature of the link in your phrasing. Help the user predict what they will see when they click on the link.
     
  • Only add links to pages when content is complete.

Do not use the same link text over and over. People will scan the links on your page. Give them meaningful information instead of a repetitive list of unhelpful phrases like, "Read more... Read more.... Read more" or "Click here.... Click here... Click here."

Use English for link text. Do not use plain URLs as link text; instead, use human-friendly text. The complete URL (http://www.etc...) is "machine-language" and is often not informative about the content behind the link.

Use the title of the page being linked to as the text for the link. The reader deserves immediate reassurance that the link and the page delivered are actually related. The title of the page is also usually informative about what the reader is likely to see when they get to that page, helping them make an informed decision about whether it's worth their time to click the link.

Put links at the end of phrases. When you put the link at the beginning of the sentence, the reader has to complete the phrase or sentence to figure out if the link is worth investigating, and then backtrack visually to find the link.

Keep links relevant. Links on a single page should be related to one another to avoid distractions from your content. If necessary, you can direct visitors to additional information by using links in a "related content" area.

Do not open new browser windows. Leave the choice about opening a new browser window in the hands of the user (right-clicking on any link gives the option of opening the link in a new window). Forcing people to open a new window can be disorienting, and it breaks a critical navigation item: the "Back" button. 

Samples

Linking to Non-Standard Web Content (PDF, Video, etc.)

It is generally preferred that web pages be offered in HTML format, since those are the most accessible and cross-platform compatible. PDF files can also be accessible, although since they require additional software to view and aren't very friendly for screen-reading, careful consideration should be given to the type and number of documents offered in this format. Learn more about accessible PDFs.

Links should indicate that a non-standard web page will be opened (since a person can browse a page by looking only at the links on that page, this information should be included in the link itself): Sample Link (Word) (PDF). If your document is long and might take a while to download, you should indicate a page count, for instance: (PowerPoint, 7 pages).

Links to sites with audio or video must also be identified; users should not be surprised by sound or motion that starts unexpectedly.

Format Identification Key

For accessibility reasons, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) requires that all documents on UUA.org must be delivered in HTML or accessible PDF format. This means that any Word, Excel, etc. documents must include a PDF or HTML alternative.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, December 6, 2012.

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