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17 May 2006

Why is "click here" in link text so bad?

Following a brief conversation with Chris the other day, I thought I’d make a short post about what could possibly be the most misinterpreted rule for webmasters... evar!

Don’t use "click here" as link text
Quality Web Tips, W3C, 2001

47. Don’t use "Click here" as link text
The Big Website “Don’t!” List, Philipp Lenssen, 4th March 2004

Don’t use "click here" or other non-descriptive link text.
Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005, Jakob Nielsen, 3rd October 2005

The W3C website also suggests that it’s not strictly correct to use ‘click here’ because “not everyone will be clicking” and continues to give the following advice:

When calling the user to action, use brief but meaningful link text that:

  • provides some information when read out of context
  • explains what the link offers
  • doesn’t talk about mechanics
  • is not a verb phrase

In an ideal world, that would be excellent advice. However, when webmasters are faced with the prospect of – let’s say – “challenged” visitors using their websites, things need to be much more obvious. Take the following examples:

  1. Click here to read my blog.
  2. Click here to read my blog.
  3. Click here to read my blog.
  4. Read my blog.

The first two examples are obviously the worst of the bunch because they don’t even link the main call to action (i.e. ‘read my blog’). According to the advice from the sites referenced above, only the last example would be acceptable. My problem with that link is that I’ve seen users respond with something similar to: “I want to read your blog, but how do I do that?” For a complete beginner, it’s not always obvious that the underlined text is a link and that they can perform the action by clicking it. (This isn’t helped by websites that don’t have underlined links or have underlined text that isn’t linked!)

I think that for any website that could be used by complete novices to the Internet, my preference would be to use the third example above. And I think it’s fair to say that it probably wouldn’t offend the more savvy users either. (Sure, not everyone will be clicking, but not everyone will be walking across the road when those American crossing signs say “WALK” or “DONT WALK” – yet those people have learnt to know what it means...)

In conclusion, if you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, using ‘click here’ in your link text is fine by me.

P.S. It’s also fine to start a sentence with ‘Because’, ‘And’ or ‘But’ regardless of what your English teacher may have told you!

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3 Comments

I broadly agree with what you just said. I saw an option worse than 4 yesterday, it was basically the same, but the link didn't follow the convention of being underlined AND it was the size of Heading 1 element AND was at the top of the page, so guess what, it looked like a page title. I spent a good few minutes trying to work out what I was supposed to be doing.
But I don't agree with you're assertion that it is OK to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

Click here to find out what a coordinating conjunction is. And I agree with Tony.

I've always been told not to start with and, but or because, but because of where I live (Northern Ireland) I do. Every one does here!