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No matter where you go on the web today you see those little anonymous links: “click here“. You clearly see them, often marked with a different color (links as they are), but you don’t immediately see where they go. Instead you need to read the text before, no wait, after, Oh! That’s a nice image up there? Hmm… What was I looking for again?

It has been said over and over again; very few people actually read full articles unless they know it’s worth it. It’s all about trust. They must have previously gotten the idea that the article they are about to read is on topic, interesting, worth a read. It’s a tricky situation, before they have read the article they need to somehow already know that they are on the right track. The solution is of course good links.

A link tells you something about the page you’re about to visit. You get a quick two or three word summary, often from an author you have previously deemed trustworthy (after all, you’re reading her/his site are you not?). When you are on a trusted site and click on a link you know that the destination is a good one. Why would there be a link there otherwise? You also know roughly what the site is about, it’s summarized and underlined in blue right there. You click and you start reading.

Instead of the above scenario I see the same problem repeated over and over again. Instead of using good link text people use “click here” to name their links. You force me to read a lot more than I should need to. Damn you!

But not only do you annoy your users. Search engines use link text as a primary source of information about the site linked to. Who wants to be found on Google only by those that search for “click here”? Sure, Google sometimes act like a persistent human and reads the surrounding text too, but it also values those words less. What? I can’t use Google to find you? Damn you!

Many screen readers have an option to only show the links for a site. This is a useful feature if you are browsing, navigating, searching for something, but know it’s not on the current page. Since screen reader users are dependent on hearing things they navigate much slower than an average user and all ways of speeding up that process helps. On a page with the usual “click here” links, the generated list will be useless. The links are taken out of context and users are forced to read the whole site to see where a certain link goes. Why are you punishing them when it’s so easy to do it the right way? Damn you!

Sometimes the existence of “click here” links has to do with design. It’s very popular right now to remove the underlining on links. This makes links harder to see and you need other methods to show the user where to click. One of them is telling the user what to do in text instead: “I want you to buy my product, but you can’t by clicking directly, you need to click here”. “Click me” designers: Damn you!

And it’s so easy.

Link with the words that best describe the content you link to.

Now. No one is going to do funny things with their comment signatures or trackbacks will they?

Friendly Bit is a blog by Emil Stenström, a Swedish interface developer and web strategist that blogs about the modern web and how to make best use of it.