Improving website usability: links

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Improving website usability: links

Links are how people navigate the internet, so making them easy to use will improve the overall usability of your site.

Links are how people navigate the internet, so making them easy to use will improve the usability of your site. The guidelines below are simple to implement, hopefully meaning allocating your time to review the use of links on your website could significantly improve the user experience for your customers.

Link styling

Blue, underlined links are probably one of the longest surviving conventions of the early internet. Following this standard makes interacting with your website quicker and easier for a user. It makes it obvious they should be clicked, and helps links to stand out.

This is very important as people will usually only scan a page for the particular word/information they're after. If you do use a different style, make it distinct and keep it consistent. And don't use the style for anything other than a link.

Other helpful features:

  • Links that become highlighted or change colour when the mouse hovers over them (confirming that you're over the link).
  • Changing the colour of previously visited links (purple is the convention).

Use descriptive link text

The text on your website should be descriptive enough to make it clear what page it will go to. Preferably, it will be the title of the target page (the one that will open when the link is clicked).

The benefits of this are two-fold. Firstly it will help users in deciding whether to click on the link, and secondly it will make it clear whether they've landed on the intended page.

That means avoiding the use of "click here" – that's just wasted text. Users are aware that they have to click, especially if the text is blue and underlined.

Make each link label unique

This enabling users to quickly navigate through multiple pages and find what they're looking for. It's not good practice to have differently titled links pointing to the same page, or the same link text going to different pages.

Be selective about what to link to

Only link to those pages that add value to the customer – too many links, and the page becomes unreadable.

Make the links big enough to click

Also, make sure there is sufficient space between them. This is especially important for users with limited mobility.

Often, "A – Z" lists where you click on a letter to take you to that point in the list feature links that are too small and too cluttered. Finding a link on these menus takes a reasonable amount of mouse accuracy.

Open in the same window

It should always be up to your customer whether they open a link in a new window, or not.

Keep links up-to-date

It's worth reviewing the links on your site regularly (say, every 6 months or so) to ensure that the target pages still exist. We all know how annoying it is to click on a link, only to find that the web page no longer exists.