Getting started with practical web accessibility, section 2 Demonstration: an analysis of a page:

Rule 2: Descriptive link texts

Let us first consider the link to the main page of the site, since it is navigational too, though isolated. As so often, the organization symbol and logo appear in the upper left corner and it links to the main page. This is quite normal and acceptable. The symbol and the logo are represented as an image, with the text “World Health Organization,” which is simple and understandable. Yet, the textual alternative to the logo, and hence the alternative link text, is “WHO home.” It contains the abbreviation only; “World Health Organization (WHO) main page” would be better.

The navigational links on the page comprise several groups:

  1. Language links at the top of the page. Each link is a language name in the language itself, which is a good approach in many ways, yet alienating to people who do not even know the characters.
  2. The main navigation on the left, with links pointing to major parts of the WHO site: About WHO, Countries, Health topics, Publications, Research tools, WHO sites. These links are not very explicit in their meaning, but reasonably understandable except for the last one, which actually points to a site index! The problem here is that the WHO does not present itself as a single web site but as a collection of sites. This inevitably causes confusion.
  3. Second-level navigation on the left, below the main navigation, with subtopics of “Food safety” under it. The links there are partly rather enigmatic; most people don’t know words like “Zoonoses,” and “Capacity building” doesn’t say what is really being built.
  4. The menu “About | Contact us | Publications | Related links” under “Food safety.” On a closer look, it turns out to be a navigation menu for the food safety activity of WHO. This gets rather confusing, and there is even the link “Publications” with the same link text as another navigational link on the page, pointing to a different page.
  5. The “breadcrumb” links “WHO > WHO sites > Food safety > Publications related to food safety > Chemical risks publications.” This mostly duplicates links elsewhere on the page, but the links themselves are understandable, with the exception of “WHO sites.”
  6. “Acrylamide FAQ’s” links on the right and their duplication near the bottom of the page: “Frequently asked questions - acrylamide in food: 1,2,3,4 | Questions related to cancer.” The numbers are surely not very explanatory as links, and thus the duplication is potentially confusing.
  7. The contextual links at the bottom:
    “Employment | Other UN Sites | Search | Suggestions | RSS | Privacy
    World Health Organization 2006. All rights reserved”
    As such, these links are relatively understandable, though the last, long link text would be more understandable if rewritten as “Copyright statement.” The link “RSS” uses a technical abbreviation, so it is probably not understandable to people who don’t know the technology; “Newsfeed as RSS” would at least tell what it is about. Also note that “UN,” though a common abbreviation, is not known by everyone; “United Nations” would be clearer.

Thus, each of the seven sets of navigational links contains a rather small set of mostly understandable and simple link texts. As a whole, this is far too much navigation and causes confusion, even at the link text level. Hence, improving the link texts would be closely coupled with the issue of reducing the amount of navigational links.