Don’t click here — Why nondescript links aren’t helpful

Click here. Learn more. Read more. Visit.

These are the forbidden swear-jar phrases in the world of web-based content. People often use such phrases to label either internal or external links. The link-text’s main function is to tell the user what they’re going to find when they click. ‘Click here’ or ‘Learn more’ don’t tell the user what the link is for or where it goes.

 

Image, link text saying 'learn more'

‘Learn more.’ About what? And how? What’s under the link? I have many questions. Image by Rhiannon Davies / CC BY licence

Nondescript link-text is problematic for three reasons.

Nondescript links don’t tell readers what they’re clicking on

‘Click here’ tells the reader exactly nothing about the link. They don’t know whether they’re going to a page within the site they’re on, or if they’re going to a different site altogether. They don’t know what information they’ll find when they click. Not knowing will mean most users won’t actually click on the link. They’d rather not click the link than possibly be swamped with useless information, or taken to a site they don’t want to visit.

Nondescript links halt user traffic

Links guide users through your website like signs in a treasure hunt. People decide where to go next based on the links they see, so they won’t follow links that are badly described. People visiting your website will leave as soon as they feel they’ve gained as much as they can from your site. If your links are nondescript, people may leave your site before they get the information they need.

‘Information scent’ is a term web content researchers use for a concept likening a web user to a hunter, with the information as their prey. Links act as the ‘scent’ the user follows to the information. A user will follow a strong scent and ignore a weak one.

Image, link text saying 'you may be interested'

Your reader may be interested in a great many things. You should probably tell them which one of those things is in the link. Picture by Rhiannon Davies / CC BY licence

Nondescript links don’t work for screen-readers

Screen-reading programs read the text on a webpage to the person using the program, who may be blind or have impaired vision. When the screen-reading program reads the page, it only sees the link-text — not the link under the text. A reader with low vision or no vision doesn’t know where to click or what they’re clicking on — or why. ‘Click here’ or ‘Learn more’ are far too vague to be useful. Such readers might be discouraged from accessing important information, like how to apply for financial assistance.

How to create the perfect in-text link

1. Use the ‘4-S’ rule to check your link-text.

Does your link meet these criteria?

2. Give directions

‘Download our menu’ or ‘Contact our friendly team’ is far more descriptive. The user knows what they need to do and what they’re going to get if they click on the link.

If you’re linking to a document, say what file type it is and how big it is.

How Write can help you with link-text and web writing

Attend Write’s Web Lab in March. Our 1-day course will teach you how to write effective web content for your online audience.

Read up on the changes to New Zealand’s standards for web accessibility. Recently we wrote a blog post about how web standards were changing to be more accessible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.