How to write text links

There are no hard-and-fast laws governing the way text links should be composed. Frequently, text can be written in a number of ways that will make perfect sense to site visitors. However, there are also some approaches that would best be avoided.

This report offers a way of thinking about text links that can help you write better text links and assess when a link is or is not successfully accomplishing its task.

Links placed in text are most useful when the words in the text directly imply (but do not spell out) the main concept of the target location's content.

The more precisely a link's target location's content is implied in text, the faster users can identify its purpose.

Example 1: 

Lunch will be served at Valentine Hall, Amherst College.

Did the result of clicking the link on "Valentine Hall" generally match your expectations of what you would find?

In Example 1, the fact that clicking on the link takes you to information about Valentine Hall's location is implied because the content at the target location relates directly to Valentine Hall. (If the main concept of the content at the target location was not implied, but literally stated, clicking the link would transport you magically out of the internet to the actual building).

The target of the link in Example 1 would be successfully interpreted even if the content at the target location was less specific or more complex than simply describing the hall's location. As long as the content in the target location directly pertains to Valentine Hall, the link implies the content.

Explicitly describing a link's purpose in text makes it harder for people to identify where the link will take them because it takes longer to derive meaning from a description.

Example 2:

Lunch will be served at Valentine Hall, Amherst College. View a page on the Amherst College website showing Valentine Hall's weekly menu.

In Example 2, it probably took you longer to figure out what the link represented at first glance compared to Example 1. That's because you had to read the whole sentence before you understood the link's target location's content. The link in Example 2 described what to do with the link before it described where the link led.

Writing text for a link that describes a link's purpose without implying the main concept behind target location's content can create confusion for visitors.

Example 3:

See something interesting about Valentine Hall.

Because the words "See something interesting" have no directly implied or associated meaning with the target location's content, it's difficult to know what exactly you'll find on the other side of the link before you click on it. In Example 3, it would have been better if the words "Valentine Hall" had represented the link.

Don't "click here"

The use of the phrase "click here" as the main text of a link demonstrates the same problem shown in Example 3. The words "click here" describe the link's purpose without implying the target location's content.

Example 4:

Click here to view Valentine Hall's Fire Evacuation Plan.

To view Valentine Hall's Fire Evacuation Plan, click here.

A better way of composing the text in Example 4 would be to say, "View Valentine Hall's Fire Evacuation Plan," or, "Valentine Hall has a Fire Evacuation Plan."