Getting started with practical web accessibility, section 1 Twelve simple rules:

Rule 2: Descriptive link texts

There are two main types of links, from a practical standpoint:

Basic navigational links are very important elements. Therefore, they should be checked for simplicity and understandability. In addition to this, all links should be at least minimally explicit and descriptive about what they refer to. Optimally, link text is meaningful even when read in isolation.

When basic navigational links appear in two or more groups, it should be more or less evident at a glance what the idea in the grouping is. Quite often, the grouping is quite logical in the authors’ opinion but not to users. The more there are groups and links, the more difficult it becomes to satisfy a basic requirement: A user should be able to quickly select among the links to find what he is interested in.

A common problem is that navigational link texts are too short and just hints rather than descriptions. Some short links work quite well, such as “Staff” or “About us” or “Products.” On the other hand, “Info” and “History” are rather abstract. Information about what, history of what? “Site info” and “Company history” would be better. Make link texts as short as possible, but not shorter.

The following table illustrates examples of bad and good link texts.

Bad Good
this Price list
here Future events
click here Order form
more Meeting of the presidents (full text)
memo User satisfaction report
R/D unit Research and development unit
ISO 1234 Split pins standard (ISO 1234)

As a rule, link texts should be unique on a page. This means that no two link texts are the same or very similar. Links pointing to the same page might be an acceptable exception, but such duplication can be disturbing.

There are some tools that you might find useful for analyzing links. Browsers such as Firefox and Opera contain functions for getting a list of all links on a page. (On Firefox, select Tools/Page Info, then the “Links” pane.) This can be useful for an overview and for analyzing whether there are disturbingly similar-looking but different links. There are also online link extractors like Link Context Checker.