Using Descriptive Links in Extension Content

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Writing TipsDescriptive links have a significant impact on accessibility and are an important part of creating clear, concise content on North Carolina Cooperative Extension web pages.

What Exactly Is a Descriptive Link, and Why Should You Use One?

A descriptive link provides readers with the proper context of where a link will take them once they click on it. Assistive technology, like screen readers, often navigate websites by going from link to link, so providing descriptive links that make sense is extremely important for web accessibility.

Take a look at the following examples:

1) To visit our EIT Meet the Team page, click here.

2) Visit our EIT Meet the Team page: https://eit.ces.ncsu.edu/people/

Example #1 offers no context of where you might end up once you click the link.

Example #2 is difficult for something like a screen reader to decipher any context from the link.

With those in mind, see how this example differs:

3) Visit the EIT Meet the Team page to find out more information about our team.

Example #3 offers a clear description of what the link is, and where it will take you once you click on it.

When creating links on news posts or pages, keep in mind these best practices, while thinking about accessibility:

  • Avoid linking to an image or PDF with no description of the information contained within or introductory blurb (this is doubly true when a user has their “show images” option turned off)
  • Avoid linking to a straight text URL (i.e., https://eit.ces.ncsu.edu/)
  • Avoid generic “action” terms (i.e., click here, learn more) – be as descriptive as possible!

Using a URL Shortener

An exception to the above would be the use of a URL shortener (i.e., Go Links (preferred), Bit.ly, etc.), as these are used for the express purpose of creating a memorable “shortcut” to content with long URLs.

If you have any questions about descriptive links or any other content issue, please get in touch! You can email me at jmware2@ncsu.edu.

If you’d like to learn more about web accessibility and why it’s important, more information is available on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative site.