“Click here”: You can’t tell me what to do!

For many years now it has been a personal sticking point for me that content writers for the internet continue to use expressions like “click here” or “click link” for anywhere in their content where they would like their audience to visit. Back when the internet was in its infancy this was a way for content creators to help their audience recognize a hyperlink to another page or website.

Many years later, with strong design skills being applied to designs across the webscape, we as developers have found it important to try to apply some standards to how content is presented. We still need to find ways to display hyperlinks to the audience, but those old terms are no longer required, or in some cases do not make sense.

There have been many articles written about why the term “click here” should no longer be used, and this includes the organization that promotes standards on the internet (W3C). This example provided the reasoning behind not using that old term. Not least of which is that it makes for easier reading.

Some people say that the reason they use “click here” is because everyone else does. That doesn’t make it best practice. Mark Caron’s Don’t use “click here” at medium.com expresses the reasons not to use it quite well, including the photo following the second paragraph.

One of the most important reasons not to use “click here” is for the accessibility reasons. People who have visual disabilities rely on technology that reads the content of a web page. This technology is amazing, but it can literally only read what it sees. Its artificial intelligence does not have the ability to interpret what it is seeing in the greater context of what is around it. It cannot tell the audience member who is listening to it that the “click here” it is reading is going to a page with relevant information, or if it is going to a page containing videos of cats in boxes (who doesn’t enjoy videos of cats in boxes). The wording used for hyperlinks should be more robust and relevant to the content that will be appearing rather than a demand that the audience interact with the content. As an example let's look at how a screen reader would interpret a link using "click here", and the same link using a context based approach.

  1. Click here for this article in Smashing Magazine about reasons not to use "click here" goes into this aspect of audience interaction.
  2. This article at Smashing Magazine about reasons not to use "click here" goes into this aspect of audience interaction.

In the first example, the screen reader is going to read out the following: "Link: Click here". This is then followed by what the person will be reading when they do click the link. The written context is there in this example, but it is not part of the hyperlink itself. It requires the audience member to interpret what is being read to them.

In the second example, the screen reader is going to read out the following: "Link: article at Smashing Magazine about reasons not to use "click here"... This is followed by some further detailed information about the article to which the link is associated. In this case the audience member doesn't need to interpret what the link is from its surrounding content. They can determine the context of the link by the words of the link itself.

The point being that while the content surrounding the “click here” may help a person interpret where that link may go, a person who cannot see that content doesn’t have the information to help them decide if the hyperlink is immediately worth clicking.

My significant other is an independent writer. She has told me that the majority of her writing colleagues see and use “click here” prolifically. The majority of their marketing is done online through websites and social media. When I brought up this issue, she was shocked at how much of an audience that she and her other writing colleagues could be missing out on by not following a practice of using context rich hyperlinks. Many of her colleagues write for their own websites as well as creating newsletters and cross-promotion blog articles with other writers. This article by Stephanie Leary is written from the point of view of a writer who works in WordPress, a platform used by a significant population of content creators.

This post has been focused mostly on the design and accessibility reasons not to use “click here”. From a user experience perspective, another reason not to use “click here” is because the consumption of web pages is no longer always in front of a screen with a keyboard and a mouse. The audience is more and more likely going to be interacting with content through a tablet or a phone. The Smashing Magazine article that was mentioned in the example above goes into further detail about how audience interaction is no longer restricted to one interaction style.

The articles that have been referenced here are all from years past, so this is not a new concept. I know this won’t change anything immediately… because it hasn’t yet… but by giving you the information we educate and inform.

Photo of kids sticking their tongues to a frozen flag pole. Credit: Matt Hollingsworth

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