Have you ever visited a website, selected a link, only to discover the page you were taken to wasn’t what you expected?
Or worse, you selected the link on your mobile device, and a 5M Excel spreadsheet started to download?
Me too. And it irritates me.
At this week’s Digital Gov webinar, Plain Language: Descriptive Link Language, Katherine Spivey discussed how using descriptive and meaningful link text can make your website more usable for your users.
By writing descriptive link text that makes sense of context, you’ll make it clear to every website visitor what to expect when they select the link.
Spivey talked about how using non-descriptive link text doesn’t provide context to the website visitor.
If you’re using “read more” in your links, what does that mean?
She also discussed the challenges faced by people using screen readers who often navigate a web page by the list of links on the page.
If you’re using “click here” for your link text, and there are 27 “click here ” links on the page, there’s no context for the list of 27 links that all say “click here.”
Think before you link! Your "helpful" click here links look like this to a screen reader user. ALT = JAWS links list pic.twitter.com/Yyx0HF5hN7
— Neil Milliken (@NeilMilliken) September 8, 2015
There’s a personal connection for me in this webinar. One of my tweets from earlier this year, about not using “click here” in link text, is in the slides (near the beginning of the talk).
Also, the first question raised in the Q & A session about including PDF or Word in the link text for a PDF or Word link? That’s my question!
I found the 35-minute video on Digital Gov’s YouTube channel, but unfortunately it only includes auto-captions. I’m hoping Digital Gov will update YouTube with the captioned video soon.
- Links are both navigation and content. They help your website visitors get to where they expect to go on your website.
- Be explicit in your link text. Make link text brief, but meaningful.
- Avoid “click here,” “more,” or “read more.” Use language that explains the content the user can expect when they select the link.
- Add a short description, if needed.
- Include PDF or Word in the link, so your visitors know the link will open a PDF, Word, Excel, etc. Also, consider including the physical size of the file. No one likes to select a link to discover they’re downloading an 8M PDF file when they’re expecting to open an HTML file.
Plain Language and Text Link Resources
Making your content and link text more usable and readable takes planning. Here’s a few of my favorite articles and resources:
- I Don’t Want to Read More or Click Here: My accessibility colleague Karen Mardahl shared her thoughts on link text a few years ago, sharing her experience with poor link text on a Copenhagen museum site.
- Readability Score: a free online site for checking the readability of your content. You can cut and paste content, enter a website address, or set up alerts to monitor a page for readability. For their premium service, you can upload documents or set up bulk processing.
- Plain Language: The Clear and Simple Content Strategy: At the Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Detroit 2014 event I planned last year, my friend Josie Scott spoke about how you can use simple, clear language to help your readers find what they need.
- Links and Hypertext: Learn about screen readers and links as well as keyword accessibility of links in this WebAim article.
- Why plain language is vital for website usability: Whitney Quesenbery explains how using plain language makes information available to everyone. She shares four tips for communicating more clearly.
Do you have recommendations for writing meaningful link text? Share your suggestions in the comments.