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Does the <body> rule the mind or does the mind rule the <body>?

Accessible Content – Part 4: meaningful Link Texts

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All of the things you said
So meaningful
They are all so suddenly meaningless

Morrissey, “Roy’s Keen”

Links are the foundation of the web. They are the essence of modern information. This is why it is important to follow some easy rules to guarantee a good link user experience.

For example most screen reader programs offer different possibilities to explore a page. For example, it is possible to search through all the links on a page in a list, without these links being related in any other way. So there are some special requirements to those texts. Because imagine the user experience of a list of link texts only repeating “click here”. Awful!

Bad Practice

  • Meaningless link texts such as “more” or “click here” should be omitted!
  • The word “link” in link texts is unnecessary. Through semantics (<a/> element) and design (for example underlining, mouse hand pointer on mouse over), it should be already possible for all users to understand that it is a link.
  • URLs (Internet addresses) as link text are usually confusing and very often not readable.
  • Link texts that are too short (for example just individual letters): These are usually not sufficiently meaningful. In addition, they are often difficult to “click” with the fingers on mobile devices. Exception: Footnotes can of course also be linked via a single number.
  • You should avoid using the title attribute in links because this will not be accessible in touch-sensitive screens (smartphones) or print versions of your website.
  • Links that open in a new window: This leads to context changes and confusion for the user. If it is necessary to open the link in a new window, provide the link with a hint that a new window will open.

Best Practice

  • The link texts should be designed in such a way that they describe the content of the linked page briefly and unambiguously.
  • Links should be able to stand alone and be understood without context.
  • Links to downloads (all downloadable files) should always contain information about the file’s size and its format. People will want to know, how long a download will take or if they have a program installed to open the file they are downloading. Additionally the date of the last update of the file could be given for example with Microsoft Word documents.

Check all your Links

Is it possible to distinguish between the links with just a list of your link texts without knowing their exact context?

Get back to the series overview.

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