The curse of ‘click here’

You know it’s funny. I’m yet to see any posters inviting people to ‘read here’, buttons asking people to ‘press this’ or bottles imploring people to ‘drink this’ (Alice in Wonderland aside) , and yet I still see websites requesting their users to ‘click here’ to follow some link. The use of ‘click here’ is one of those bad design habits, like frames, flashing text and animated logos that I thought had died out by now. Sadly it seems that the practice is still very much alive and well. Even our esteemed friends at Mozilla are doing it and they are supposed to know and thing or two about the web!

Example of click here link from Mozilla

Even the mighty Mozilla can fall victim to the curse of ‘click here’!

So what’s wrong with using ‘click here’?

What’s worng with using ‘click here’? Well quite a few things actually.

  1. It’s bad for usability. Using ‘click here’ for a link forces users to read around the link to find out what they should actually be clicking for. It’s a bit like labelling the up and down arrows for a lift to ‘press this to go up’ and ‘press this to go down’!
  2. It’s bad for readability. ‘Click here’ invariably leads to clunky and overly long winded text. Why use ‘Click here to download the file’ when ‘Download file’ will suffice?
  3. It’s bad for search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines like Google will use the text for links going to a page to help determine what that page is about. Using ‘click here’ is about as useful to Google as a chocolate teapot (which thinking about it could be surprisingly useful, just so long as you like cold, chocolaty tea).
  4. It’s bad for accessibility. Don’t forget that some users might not even be using a mouse so can’t ‘click here’ even if they wanted to. Also screen reader users will often deal with links out of context, such as bringing up a list of all the links on the page. A list of ‘click here’ link is obviously going to make their lives somewhat difficult.

    A list of ‘click here’ links would make no sense within a screen reader

  5. It’s patronising. Users know how to follow a link. They don’t need being told that they should ‘click here’ to do something, like it’s their first time using a computer!

So what should I use instead?

Well in the words of the World Wide Web consortium:

“Good link text should not be overly general; don’t use “click here.” Not only is this phrase device-dependent (it implies a pointing device) it says nothing about what is to be found if the link if followed. Instead of “click here”, link text should indicate the nature of the link target, as in “more information about sea lions” or “text-only version of this page”.
HTML Techniques for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

In other words good link text should:

  • Be descriptive. Ideally it should make sense out of context, such as ‘Retry the file download’ in the above Firefox example rather than ‘click here’.
  • Be as short as possible. Take a leaf out of Einstein’s book. Make link text as simple as possible but no simpler.
  • Be goal orientation. Ideally a link should also be a call to action for users, such as ‘Download file’, ‘Read more’ or ‘Log out’.
  • Be written in plain English. Avoid confusing acronyms, jargon and techno babble.
  • Be in sentence case. Avoid shouty upper case links. Upper case text (i.e. ‘DOWNLOAD FILE’) is generally harder to read than sentence case (i.e. ‘Download file’) and isn’t anywhere nearly as polite.
  • Let users know what is being linked to. Let users know if the link is to something other than a web page, such as a PDF or Word document. For example, A really rather important document (PDF).
  • Warn users if the link will open in a new window. Give users a heads up if the link will be opening in a new window as outlined in Beware of Opening Links in a New Window (written by yours truly). For example, An awesome article (opens in new window).
  • Not be ‘Click here’. Hope you’ve been paying attention!