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Web Site Cookbook by Doug Addison

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6.2. Writing Meaningful Link Text

Problem

You need to guide visitors to the page they're looking for with well-written link text.

Solution

When building a hypertext experience on your web site, follow this checklist to ensure that your links require as little effort from your visitors as possible to make them useful:

  • Links should be formatted to stand out from other text.

  • Followed links should look different than links that are not followed.

  • Links should describe their destination.

  • Links should be succinct.

  • Link text should be straightforward. Avoid riddles, sarcasm, and culturally specific references.

Discussion

The words and phrases you place in <a href="…"> tags are by far the most important bits of text on your site. Web surfers, by their nature, are scanners. After determining that the page he's viewing does not have the information he wants, a visitor to your site will scan the page looking for the link that will take him closer to his goal.

A visitor's first job when scanning a page is to visually distinguish text that is a link from text that is not a link. As the designer, you should have already done the work to make this an easy task. In your site's stylesheet, you should define colors for text, links, and followed links, like this:

	body {
	color: #000000;
	}
	a:link {
	color: #0000FF;
	}
	a:visited {
	color: #660099;
	}

These styles will create blue, underlined links on black text. When the visitor returns to a page from which he has followed a link, that link will appear purple (#660099) ...

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