My latest observation is that people tend to repeat familiar user interfaces when creating web documents. A good example, and particularily what I wished to focus on in this writing, is creating links from the words “click here”, or “here”, and the like. Assuming that you want to guide user to the downloads page authors often write:

Click here to go to the downloads page.

While the instructions on where to click are definitely given, the user still needs to look through the whole sentense to find why he or she should to click there. Now assume that you have a large document with lots of links and all of them are designed like above. Will this page be useful? No way, in my opinion. Neither human user nor the automated parser will find anything interesting during a brief overview if only what he sees are lots of underlined “here” and “click here”. There’s simply nothing to catch an eye with. Furthermore, I even consider it to be slightly unpolite because you intentionally force user to spend his time on useless research: where do these links lead?

In my view, the better way forward would be paraphrasing the sentenses to let the subject be linked to somewhere. In the situation with the download page it could be:

To get a copy of our product please visit the downloads page.

Now the link explains what it links to and every user will see what’s available at a glance.

The other thought to keep in mind is that The Web is a digital media. When we map it to the paper through printing these click-here-style links lose any sense, right? So the document becomes ugly and lauphable with all those beggings for a click. Ideally, the words and phrases we underline should be explained at the pages they lead to. It’s what “Hyper-Linking” means in HTML.

In this respect, the Wiki-family of products teach us a good lesson. The whole concept around them is based on linking the phrases with descriptions. Check the WikiPedia, for example. I doubt you will find there any artificial link markers; only key phrases are underlined, what makes it easy and fun to read.

Well, that was my point of view. Don’t take it too serious though. It’s not a major crime anyway and no one will sentense you to capital punishment for that. The writing was intended just to remind what you already know and always knew.

Comments from the past

Kevin Yank on 12/15/2005

This is also an important issue for Web accessibility. That’s why it’s covered in the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0):

For screen reader users, the text within hyperlinks is very important, because these users often navigate using a list of links of the page. With links like your first example, the list will sound like this: “Click, click here, click, …” With links like your second example, the list is more useful: “downloads page, Java API refernce, email me”.

Aleksey Gureiev on 12/16/2005

Yes, totally valid point. Also I was thinking about text browsers with a list of links below or above the page given as a summary.

There are still tricky situations out there, like when you have a page where you give several links to various RSS feeds. It’s obviously better to name such links as “RSS” (not “click” I mean), but they will be all the same “RSS, RSS, RSS …”. The “title” attribute can do the trick I hope without adding extra visual weight to the document.