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How to write a link

Posted in Markdown and Search

A link could lead anywhere. It is important to let your users know exactly where the link will lead. To do this, the link text itself should contain a good indication as to where your website’s visitor will be taken.

In this article I won’t bog you down with how to actually write links in your CMS as this can vary, but, if you’re interested in the nitty gritty, I’ve written an article on how to do it.

Your navigation is a series of links and—in your navigation of all places—it’s absolutely vital your users know where they’ll end up. So-called ‘mystery meat’ navigation is a terrible idea. Creative, cryptic or obscure navigation items cause problems…

As Paul Boag points out in a great little blog post from early 2012:

When faced with an unfamiliar term users feel a sense of doubt. This creates one of two reactions… The sense of doubt leads to uncertainty and inaction [or] They feel a need to understand the unfamiliar term and so waste time investigating the section in case it contains relevant content to them.

The former reaction is clearly a bad thing – that last thing you want to do is undermine your visitors’ confidence in your website (and therefore your business!). The latter reaction will probably lead them away from your website and the likelihood of them returning to complete the task is greatly reduced.

Lists of site navigation links are one thing but it’s likely there are less ‘formal’ links scattered all through your site’s text (top tip: if they aren’t, they should be!). This links are like like those I used earlier in this article (linking to a Wikipedia article on Mystery Meat and Paul Boag’s blog post).

The beauty of the web is that the information you want to convey might be spread across several different places – rather than rewriting other people’s articles it’s much more useful to simply link to them. This in itself has a benefit for the original author as each link to their article is counted as a ‘vote’ that search engines use to decide how to rank their page.

So, as I mention in the ‘What should a link look like?’ section of my article on how links work, links should be readable (none of all that https:// nonsense!) and provide a clue as to where they lead.

How have you been writing your links? It’s likely you’ve been doing it properly anyway, as the web has certain conventions that we all know implicitly, but, if you haven’t been, I hope that’s been helpful! And don’t forget to check out my article on how to actually write your links!

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More resources

Here are a couple more resources for you to enjoy. If that’s not enough, have a look at the full list.

  1. Images as the first thing in a button or link

    If the text of an interactive element like a button or link is preceded with an accessible image, we’ve probably got an accessibility problem.

  2. Alt text for CSS generated content

    There’s an interesting feature in Safari 17.4 that allows content added with CSS to have ‘alt’ text. I’m not sure how I feel about this.