It's important to use links properly so that:
- users can scan link text quickly to navigate to the page they're looking for
- search engines can index links and their landing pages correctly, thus improving search engine results
- sight-impaired users can use screen readers to navigate the site effectively
Phrase links so that it's obvious where the link goes to. Thus, "Click here" or similar phrases should not be used as linked text, nor should the page's URL be the link text. For example:
Examples of incorrect link phrasing
- "Click here for more information on financial aid,"
- "For more information on financial aid, visit this site,"
- "For more information on financial aid, visit financialaid.ku.edu."
Examples of correct link phrasing
"Global" navigation links
The top two horizontal navigation bars and the third-level left navigation bar are "global" navigation menus, which means that when a user clicks a link in one of those navigation menus, the user expects the resulting page to also be in that same navigation menu. Avoid breaking that rule whenever possible, but in cases where it makes sense to break the rule, append "»" into the end of the link label, which ends up looking like this »
Targets & opening new windows/tabs
KU's standard is to open links in the same window/tab, even if the link is to an external site. The reasoning for this is explained well by usability expert Jakob Nielsen part-way down his Alertbox article. Even though the article is from 2005, the reasoning still stands. Also, if a user wants to open a link in a new window, they can do so by right-clicking, whereas if we set the link target to open in a new window, they are no longer able to choose. Exceptions may be allowed for linking to or from a logged-in state, or when linking to a resource where it's very likely the user would intend to return to the original site.
The link text of "Mailto" links should always be the email address, not the person or department's name (because the user would expect those to link to a person's bio or the unit web site, respectively). For example, email questions to Justin Henning at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to PDF or .doc files
Because users expect a link to go to another web page, it's important to indicate when a link will go to a PDF, doc, or other file type. If the link is inline within a sentence, add "(pdf)" or "(doc)" to the end of the link. For example, here's how a link to the Academic Site Sketchpad (pdf) would be presented. If there is a vertical list of links, it is acceptable to indicate the file type with the proper filetype icon to the left of the linked text.