Standard and Non-Standard Links

Links are the Web’s number one interaction element. Violating common expectations for how links work is a sure way to confuse and delay users, and might prevent them from being able to use your site. Lets see what Markup Gurus say about links, and when links meet the standard or non-standard criteria. The usability guideline for any type of navigational design is to help users understand three major points:

  • Where they’ve been?
  • Where they are?
  • Where they can go (past, present, and future)?

These three are interrelated: If we consider browsing a site, a journey; then knowing your past and present locations makes it easier to decide where to go next.

Standard Guidelines for Links

  • Make obvious what’s clickable.
    For text links, use colored or underlined text.
  • Don’t underline non-link text.
  • Differentiate visited and unvisited links.
  • Explain what users will find at the other end of the link via ‘alt’ and ‘title’ tags to enhance scannability and search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Don’t use “click here” or other non-descriptive link text.
  • Avoid JavaScript or other fancy techniques (flash) that break standard interaction techniques for dealing with links.
  • Don’t open pages in new windows (except for different files i.e. PDF files).