Yet another geek blog

15 September 2007

What is wrong with 'Click Here'?

Do not throw stones at this notice

Don't use "click here" as link text.

Quality Tips for Web Masters W3C

Don't use "click here" or other non-descriptive link text.

Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005 Jakob Nielson

Google returns 1.3 billion search results for the phrase ('click here')


Too little of what is written on the web is written for the web. Ideally it is written by somebody who knows the subject and then rewritten (I refuse to say 'repurposed') by somebody who knows about the web. I am one of those rewriters and removing the words 'click here' is something I seem to do every day. And I am forever explaining it. And if I am ever over-ruled, it will be about this.

But users need help

Committees tend to be the worst offenders. There is always somebody who insists that just because a user has

  • turned on a computer;
  • opened a browser;
  • used a search engine to find a site and
  • navigated to a page

it does not necessarily follow that they know how to use a hyperlink. They will always demand the safety blanket of instructions for the link. Instructions that appear anywhere but the link.

What is interesting, is that these are often the same people who oppose technology neutral phrases for disabled people because there are hardly any of them.

Yes, help is good. But why is a hyperlink singled out as being difficult? There is tons of literature about the fact that users do not scroll, but I have never seen instructions for a scoll bar on a site.

We do not publish books that have 'please turn over' in the corner of every page. We are not told by BBC 1 that to watch the programme on BBC 2 we need to change channel. We do not need 'click here' on a hyperlink.

'Click Here' Wastes Space

Whever 'click here' is used as the link text, it needs to be accompanied by an explanation. Space is precious. Compare these examples:

Once the link describes itself, the rest becomes redundant.

This division of the link and the explanation for the link is also inelegant because in forces you into using a particular phrase when that might not be what you want to say.

'Click here' Wastes Ink

A web page is still a web page if it is printed out. No, that is not a zen riddle. A book is still a book if it is a PDF. Printers and screens are just two different methods of viewing the data. So it is always a good idea to be as format neutral as possible.

Not Everybody 'Clicks Here'

This always seems to come as a surprise, but not everybody accesses the Internet in the same way. Teenagers use their mobile phones, yuppies use PDAs and there are even browsers that read text aloud. So, links are 'followed' in a variety of ways.

Since the physical workings of the browser are nothing to do with the content of the page, there is not need for the page to refer to them.

But everybody else does it

The fact remains that 1,300,000,000 pages use 'click here' and I have just made it 1,300,000,001. Why? Two big reasons are banner advertisements and standardisation.

Banner Ads

Banner ads are everywhere. Even on this page, I admit it. More and more of them work on a 'pay-per-click' system so they scream 'click me'. The sheer volume of all this normalises it.


The same Jakon Nielson who complains about 'click here' also coined:

In other words, if everybody else does it so we should too. In fact, when people do object to having their content rewritten, they often insist that they put it there because everybody knows that that is the way you are supposed to write it.

This is the reason I have saved this point until last.

Search Engine Ranking

Do the people who are ranked fist for something worry about it? Do they say Everybody else is lower down, surely that means that I should be lower down too!

Oddly enough, the do not think that. In fact, they are often in that position because they have paid good money for a Search Engine Optimiser. SEOs are people or companies that go through a site and make it as easy as possible for search engines to correctly index their pages.

Now, I mentioned disabled users above. Search engines are the most important users of your site- and they are blind.

Look at this example:

Dogs are very important. For more information about them click here.

Now, imagine that you are Google and that you need to know what the destination page is about. What can it tell about the page from here? Absolutely nothing.

Now look at this:

Dogs are very important.

The page is about dogs! How do we know, because the text that links to it contains the word 'dogs'. The association between that page and the search term 'dogs' is now stronger. Not much stronger, but every little helps.

But let me emphasise this. Small changes, like the removal of the words 'click here', make such an accumulated difference that people can make a living out of them. Now, wouldn't it be easier if we all just stopped doing it?



posted by Yet Another Geek @ Saturday, September 15, 2007


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