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Help web users understand the purpose of your links to facilitate smooth navigation

What is link purpose in context? 

Since the beginning of the internet, hyperlinks have played a key role in designing compelling and engaging user experiences. As digital design techniques have matured, so too have best practices around incorporating links into webpages. 

The W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) addresses this issue in Success Criterion2.4.4:Link Purpose (In Context). To achieve level A conformance with SC2.4.4., organizations must help users to understand the purpose of each link so they can decide whether they want to follow it — unless the purpose of the link is considered ambiguous to users in general.

Why is link purpose in context important? 

Worldwide, millions of people are living with disabilities that can make it more difficult to engage with certain types of content on the internet — and assistive technologies empower users with disabilities to access digital services. For example, screen readers help people with visual impairments by reading and describing web content using synthetic speech, and alternative pointing devices allow people with motion impairment to navigate without a mouse and keyboard. 

Making the purpose and destination of each link clear from context is a powerful way to make your website easy to access — and link purpose in context is even more important for users of assistive technologies. If you provide hyperlinks on your website without clear context, you may inadvertently force users with disabilities to trawl through multiple pages of irrelevant to try to find the content they are looking for. 

This can be a significant challenge for users of assistive technology, whose journeys tend to require longer to complete than other web visitors. By frustrating or disorientating users with confusing, poorly contextualized hyperlinks — like “Click Here” or “Read More” — you could be causing many visitors to abandon their journeys prematurely. It’s not just sales opportunities that are in jeopardy. In fact, you might be exposing your company to the risk of a costly lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

What can I do to fix the issue? 

Whenever you add a hyperlink to your website, it’s crucial to keep users of assistive technologies in mind. For example, if your page provides a sales brochure in three different formats (HTML, PDF and mp3), consider that each hyperlink should include text that describes the different formats — but without repeating the title of the brochure three times over. 

Another valuable technique for providing link purpose in context is to make sure that links are preceded by a clear and concise description of what the user will find on the other side. For instance, context such as “download a PDF of today’s lunch menu” will allow users of assistive technology to decide whether or not they want to visit the link straight away, helping to reduce the length of their journeys, promote higher satisfaction and strengthen your digital accessibility. 

However, there are some exceptions to these rules. In particular, the WCAG considers that links which are ambiguous to all users — including those with and without disabilities — can still meet the requirements of SC 2.4.4.  

While the WCAG provides clear guidelines around what constitutes effective link purpose in context, interpreting SC 2.4.4. requires experience. AudioEye combines automated scanning and remediation technology with human-led testing and custom remediation, providing a unique hybrid service that resolves accessibility issues on an ongoing basis. By subscribing to the AudioEye service, you get the benefit of rapid identification and remediation of text contrast and other key accessibility issues. You also gain access to a team of human experts who can support your web designers in adopting universal design practices for the longer term. 

Don’t delay — subscribe today and solve your digital accessibility issues with AudioEye. 

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