June tip (three months left): Write understandable links

What would the web be without links? Well, it would not really be a web ... Links on the internet can lead us exactly where we want, or somewhere completely else. Sometimes we are deceived by a click bait, sometimes we click by mistake and get disappointed. It may be annoying, but usually no major issue. What is a real problem, however, is when the links cannot be understood or handled. Bad links run the risk of excluding users from content.

For people using screen readers to find the right link on a page, there is a neat feature that allows you to list all the link built into the tool. This way, visually impaired users get an overview and can understand the structure of the website without seeing it. The alternative is to stepwise tab through all the links in the hope of finding the right one - which is neither practical nor particularly fun. Therefore, the link list is a common and efficient way of navigating with assistive technology.

But the list contains only the link, which is why you as a web author need to make it understandable, even taken out of context.

Should I choose read more, click here or the report?

If the link does not describe where it leads, it will be more or less impossible for visually impaired users to find the right one. But it also becomes much more difficult for other users. In the research we perform, we see that people who have difficulty reading, concentrating or understanding, people who are not used to technology and some older users hesitate when links are not clear. When the user starts to think "What happens if I click here?", the idea of linking is partially lost.

Therefore, avoid naming links "read more" or similar, which does not give a clue about what it is I can read more about.

When the link begins with the keyword, visually impaired users get as good an overview as possible, since they do not have to read the entire link before choosing in the link list:

The summer weather - read all about the forecast for your holiday weeks

is more effective than

Read all about how the forecast of the summer weather for your holiday weeks

This applies not only to users with screen readers, but also to users who read with their eyes.

Another important thing is consistency. It's a basic rule of accessibility in general, but when it comes to links, there are two things to keep in mind:

  • Links that work the same way should be similarly designed and named, so that the user can recognise them.
  • Links leading to the same goal should be named the same.

It also makes it easier for all users if the link:

  • describes if it leads the user away from the site
  • indicates whether the link will open a format other than html, such as a PDF-document
  • describes how heavy the document is

WCAG 2.1:

2.4.4 (AA)
2.4.9 (AAA)
3.2.3 (AA)
3.2.4 (AA)

Only months until your website needs to be accessible!