Click here and other meaningless link phrases

A while ago Emil Stenström wrote an article about one of those things that you have to keep educating clients about: writing good and informative link phrases. As you might guess from the title, Emil specifically talks about the use of “click here” in Click here to read this article, but there are several other meaningless link phrases that seem almost as popular as forcing links to open in new windows.

A few examples:

When you see the examples like that it’s quite obvious that neither is of much use to the visitor. Instead, I would use this:

Another common link phrase that is meaningless on its own is “read more”, which is very common on news sites:

The latest news story

An excerpt from the full story, hopefully enough to let you decide whether you want to read the rest of it or not. Read more

It can be argued that the context will make it clear to the reader what will happen when they follow the link. That may be true, but I prefer linking the hed in those situations:

The latest news story

An excerpt from the full story, hopefully enough to let you decide whether you want to read the rest of it or not.

Help reduce the number of meaningless links on the Web by repeating “Think before you link” to yourself and to your clients.

Posted on November 28, 2006 in Accessibility, Quicklinks, Usability

Comments

  1. I think that ‘read more’ is forgivable, for precisely the reason you hint at.

    The flow of the sentence isn’t interrupted by the link, and in fact I’d argue that in broad usability terms it beats title linking for sighted users.

    The user’s eyes will be following the sentence, and so clicking on a ‘read more’ link at the end will require less effort than having to readjust and search for the title.

    Having said that, I’d probably play safe and link both.

  2. By removing the “Read more” link you have removed any indication that the story has more information than the excerpt.

  3. On our news sites, we do both: we link the header and give a “read more” link (for the sake of indicating that there is more information than the tease graph).

    One thing we really should do (but really don’t, out of our sheer laziness) is give that “read more” link a title attribute with the story’s title as its value.

  4. See here also.

  5. “Think before you link” that sounds like a government health compaign slogan or something. Very catchy.

  6. I think “read more” is acceptable if you use accessible more links, and most of the time I agree with you on ‘click here’. The only time I deviate is if I know my target user has a very low level of ability (like my mum, who can barely use a mouse) then I may just link the whole sentence “click here to do something”, but never “click here” on it’s own of course.

  7. Concerning the practice of defining links, the argument that I generally get from clients is that we have to make allowances for users who, in their words, “are new to the web and don’t know what links are.” (I recently built a site for a merchants’ association, and had to convince the client not to put a “click here” link after every one of other 30 merchant category links.) Any tips on how to combat this way of thinking?

  8. November 28, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Peter: In the context of a news listing I agree that “read more” can work.

    huphtur: Hehe ;-). There is some sense in that but I don’t think you can categorically say that headings should not be links.

    David: That there is more information is implied by the context, much in the same way that the target of a “read more” link would be.

    Jeff: We do that too sometimes. Always with a title attribute for the “read more” link ;-).

    John W: Haha :-P.

    John L: Great! I hope it’s catchy enough to get picked up by lots of people :-).

  9. Another problem with “click here” is that it is device dependent. Not everyone is browsing the Web with a mouse. Granted, most people will know what to do with their specific device, but I think it’s best to avoid any occurrences of device dependent content.

  10. I do know people who would never ever find the link in vour header.

  11. November 28, 2006 by mzgambi

    On news article what if you use the old newspaper term, “continued” as the link that way it’s clear that there is more and it does flow nicely at the end of the sentance.

    I work on a site where are users really are “behind the times” and we do have to treat them like the internet children they are - If I want them to click on something to do something I do need to spell it out pretty clearly. I do like using “learn more” instead of click here but can’t get away with more subtle underlining links only.

  12. Hot damn - I was going to post about this exact subject on my own blog, specifically in regard to a Joe Clark article!

    Links need to make sense out of context. Now, I’m reasonably sure that Joe Clark, who’s a specialist in the accessibility realm, isn’t overly concerned with link-text being meaningful out of context - which I found odd. ( http://blog.fawny.org/2006/06/08/francofisking/ , item number 4 )

    I believe the argument Joe made was that in testing it was found that no-one reads links out of context anyway.

    I disagree with his opinion. I think people do read through links ‘out of context’ - for example whenever you tab-through the page. Surely it’s far nicer to see (or hear) a descriptive link whilst tabbing than to see or hear ‘click here’, and then have to scan just prior to the link in order to understand the context of it.

  13. There should be a quick tips card aimed specifically at clients with the top 10 things they need to remember when updating their web sites.

  14. @mzgambi

    Good point regarding links to news articles or long comments. This method has been used in good old fashion newspapers and book covers forever. I would personally think that the ‘continued’ and ‘read more’ should be here to stay as they are quite intuitive…of course using a proper title tag though.

    @roger

    re:@David

    I wouldn’t rely solely on the header. If the article showing ends with the end of a sentence a user might assume that that is the full story being displayed with no further info.

  15. I’m not behind the times or a someone who lacks slightly-above-average web-savvy and it took me an unacceptable amount of time to realize that you had linked the header. The link was so subtle that likely the only reason I recognized it was that I had the Read More version with which to visually compare.

    I think that most sites that would make use of a Read More link are sites that are focused on sharing information. It doesn’t strike me as particularly practical for these sites to make their information more accessible by first hiding information (i.e., the fact that there is a link so that the user might Read More).

    Otherwise, I’m pretty much with you on the Click Here issue. I just think that a visual note that there is more content that flows with the text is usually a better play (forcing a user to backtrack to find a link plays against flow). There are times when simply linking a header would be appropriate, but I think, by-and-large, the Read Mores I’ve seen have been used to good effect.

  16. The worst example for this, in my opinion, is what eBay uses, at least in the German eBay, for the link to add an item to the watchlist:

    Watch this item in My eBay

    In the U.S. eBay, the link is on “Watch this item”, which is okay, but in the German one… it’s just wrong.

  17. What about About this site.

    Why “here” is especially cool? Free Google SEO bonus …

  18. On the same topic I like Dey Alexander’s article Don’t ‘click here’: writing meaningful link text.

  19. When I use “more” links they always include part or all of the pages title: Read more about “Butchering your siblings with a pitchfork”…

  20. For the link ‘click here’ and ‘read more’ we must remember that these are very visual dependent as well.

    What about a screen reader that grabs all of the links on your page in the source order? How many ‘read more’ links show up and make no sense?

    (unless of course, you use the accessible css ‘more’ links method which we do on our news sites)

  21. Jordan wrote:

    Another problem with “click here” is that it is device dependent. Not everyone is browsing the Web with a mouse.

    I don’t recall where I read it but the term “click,” being it’s so common, is actually quite meaningful even to those who activate links by alternative means.

    I was surprised to see “About Page” as a poor example, as it may be then same used in the main navigation, but I suppose “About Us” might be better.

    Regarding “Read More,” it is very apt for a lead-in to the full story on a news item. The problem is when there are multiple occurrences on any given page. On my blog I changed the default WP output to include the title of the article just for this reason. Not only is it more telling, but it also makes for unique link phrases.

  22. To my mind, the most complete solution is to link the article title and provide a more link something like ‘{article title} continues…’ or ‘read more about {article title}’.

    Though I recently stopped using … as I’m not sure if screen readers ‘get it’ or not?

    I’ve a few current projects with linked titles and just ‘read more’ inline at the end of the extract, so am glad to hear it’s considered acceptable :-)

  23. November 29, 2006 by Zephyr

    Chris, how about:

    • The majority of visitors does know what links are/look like. Increasing usability for the minority will decrease usability for the majority.

    • It’s a slippery slope. You can also start calling out ‘click the little black triangle to see a list of options’ next to each dropdown listbox, ‘click inside this box to start typing’ next to each textbox etc.

    I believe you have to assume a minimum amount of computer/web skill, unless you’re site aims to educate, or has a disproportionate amount of first time web users.

  24. I am guilty of the ‘read more’ link used on one of my sites. However, it is for a book publisher, and the titles/pictures are links to the same destination (as already mentioned, its there to reinforce that there is more to be read). I use the ‘read more’ link with a title attribute of the actual book title/author/news detail page.

    So, even though I am guilty - I completely agree with you and am looking for a better solution. Read More seemed to work better than being repetitive with the complete title at the top and bottom of the section.

  25. Search engines and their results are another reason to avoid “click here”, as the search engines do use the link phrase (anchor text) in their rankings.

    A google search for “click here” returns the download page for Adobe Reader because so many sites use that phrase as the anchor text.

    Likewise, “click here to exit” has Yahoo, Disney, Disneyland, and Google as the top four results. Why? Adult sites often have the entrance page that has one link if you are over 18, and another if you are under 18. That under 18 link usually says “click here to exit” and takes you to one of the above sites.

  26. I don’t think that “Read more” is all that bad. It is after all a very standardized phrase.

    It is however a nuisance when people abuse it. It should only be used to link to a continuation of the article or specific info that elaborates on the same subject.

    Often I see “Read more” linking to the startpage of a site where the readers are left to find what they are looking for their own. Now, that’s turn-off ;-)

  27. It looks like most of us are guilty of using the “Read More” button.

    On my earlier sites I used lots of “Click here” buttons. After studying my web stats more carefully I learnt to entice the readers into reading more by using more user-friendly link names. It works!

    What one must remember to do though is to make sure your links are obvious, using CSS. Far too often links are camouflaged and cannot be seen properly. Underline your links, or use a bold different colour to your body text!

  28. I note that the front page of 456 Berea Street uses a “Continued…” link to point to each full post (albeit with a more informative title attribute). Is “continued” any better than “read more”? I think they’re pretty much the same.

    My own view (which I’ll come back to in a minute) is that “read more” and its ilk are OK is used with care, but if you don’t think so maybe you should practice what you preach?

    I think a link at the end of an excerpt is a useful pointer that there is more to read. Think of it as a non-graphical icon rather than a piece of intrinsically meaningful text. Making the heading a link as well makes sense too.

  29. November 29, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    The Dane:

    The link was so subtle that likely the only reason I recognized it was that I had the Read More version with which to visually compare.

    If you reload the page (to make sure your browser downloads the latest version of the CSS) the link should be more obvious.

    Mike:

    I was surprised to see “About Page” as a poor example, as it may be then same used in the main navigation, but I suppose “About Us” might be better.

    The poor part of that example is the text “Link to” preceding the actual link, not the “About page” text itself.

    Chris Hunt:

    My own view (which I’ll come back to in a minute) is that “read more” and its ilk are OK is used with care, but if you don’t think so maybe you should practice what you preach?

    That is my view as well, which is why I use “Continued” after the post excerpts while also linking the heading. I did not intend to “preach” that you can never use “read more”. I only mentioned that in most situations I prefer just linking the heading to reduce visual clutter.

  30. Of course links are read out of context and regularly. The “read more” on its own is rather weak and doesn’t really mean anything without something like a title attribute or more descriptive text.

  31. When using technical aids like a screen-reader you can have all the “a href”-elements read by your speech synthesizer. Imagine how accessible it is then when the site contain 34 links with the namne (“Link 23, read more, link 24, read more,link 25, read more etc.”). A good written title-attribute solve the problems in some cases though.

  32. Along the same lines, what about the links where someone says something like “everyone is doing it” with each word linking to a different site. It seems to be trendy, but doesn’t offer any value out of context.

  33. Byron, that’s a very very bad trend. It isn’t even “cool,” just hugely inaccessible. Blogs should really avoid doing it. Thanks for bringing it up.

  34. November 30, 2006 by Brian Ritchie

    I’m not sure why links need to make sense out of context if the only time those posts will be read is in context.

    Take the above sentence that I just wrote. Out of context, it may be confusing because I’m replying to someone’s comment above me. It only makes sense in context, because you can read what I’m responidng to, and that is perfectly okay.

    I understand the point of improving the user interface, but you can’t possibly consider these things as rules. They are merely ideas, and they apply differently when the subject and the audience changes. On a non-tech site, people might not realize that the headings of the articles are links. In the “The latest news story” link example, I didn’t know the heading was linked until I moused over it. With “click here” you at least can know where the link is.

    One thing that is confusing at times is when a story description has multiple links and you’re not sure which one leads to the story.

  35. November 30, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Along the same lines, what about the links where someone says something like “everyone is doing it” with each word linking to a different site.

    That is a really bad practice (which I too have been guilty of since all the other kids were doing it). Fortunately it is not all that common on non-blogs.

    I’m not sure why links need to make sense out of context if the only time those posts will be read is in context.

    But you can’t know if the visitor will read the links out of context or not.

  36. What’s so different with

    Learn more about this site

    from

    Read more

    or

    Read more of this article

    One of my current pet hates is the practice of using colour to emphasise text, thus making non-links look like links. I’ve seen this popping up in several places, but here’s the best example of it I could find from memory. Those emphasised parts look like links to me, and I hate having to hover to find out they’re not.

    What’s especially frustrating is when the links on the page are actually the same colour too.

  37. Great post. Meaningless link phrases such as “click here” are definitely a pet peeve of mine, as it should be for all web professionals.

  38. I find that the quality of the content goes down and the “click here” and “more” rate goes up massively once you’ve launched a site and the client is left to their own creative resources. Which usually work more on the effect side of things. A link is supposed to be highlighted, but I’ve made the experience with different kinds of clients that they are afraid of linking a full sentence, because they couldn’t come up with something that allows for a descriptive link in 3 or 4 words.

    So they’d rather link up a meaningless phrase, and, if I’m not mistaken, this will go on until a new generation is updating sites that is so internet-savvy that they can spend their brain-cells on smarter copy-writing.

  39. It seems that someone at W3C HTML Validation services reads your site. I cannot remember ever seeing “Don’t use “click here” as link text!” as one of their Tips Of The Day.

  40. I hate “click here” too. I think I’d prefer “Read more” to be “Full article” or “Complete article”. Just something that’s a bit more descriptive of what it’s linking to.

  41. Most of our clients put ‘click here’ in their specs.

    Another example of die hard cliched web marketing techniques from the early days of the web.

  42. It’s very frustrating to produce a lovely accessible website with a CMS for a client, allowing them to litter the site with ‘click here’s. If I’d been particularly proud of a website before it had been released to the client, seeing bad practice in the content allows this feeling to quickly evaporate. It’s difficult to teach clients about this without insulting them.

    If you want to check your page’s link text - in Firefox: Right click on the page > ‘View page info’ > Select the ‘Links’ tab. Quite useful.

  43. December 15, 2006 by Stevie D

    I’m not sure why links need to make sense out of context if the only time those posts will be read is in context.

    Because you don’t know that the links will be read in context.

    Search engine spiders will glean some context from the surrounding text but will not be able to process it as effectively as a human reader would. That means they are unlikely to index the link properly for relevant terms.

    Users of assistive technology will often bring up a list of links, which will glean no context from the surrounding text - all they are likely to get is the link text and/or title.

    That’s why, for news-type pages where there is a summary of the article or just the first paragraph, it is important to make the headline a link, even if you put a “read more” link at the end of the summary as well.

  44. Let’s not forget to follow this link :)

    To get more information, go here and follow the links.

    John Doe’s manual contains more information. It can be found going to his website at www.dev.null and clicking on the “doc” link.

    Jane’s manual is located at www.foo.bar/manual.ps. It contains more information on it.

    For more information, close this window and open a new one to the “funny” page.

    Had enough of it yet? I’ve actually seen pages written like that :)

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