Please do not “click here”

I want to tell you a story:

Once upon a time, there was a large public organization with a large staff of web content curators. These curators dealt with a lot of content, and would often use ‘click here’ in their hypertext links to help users move between pages.  Like this:

For a copy of the full summer reading list, click here.

To see only the Elementary level list, click here.

To see the Intermediate level list, click here.

To see the High School level list, click here.

Everyone did it, because that’s how everyone else was doing it, and no one had ever said there might be a valid reason for it to be done differently.

One day, there was an annual conference where all the web content curators met. At this conference, emphasis was placed on people with accessibility challenges  who used alternative methods of accessing websites, such as screen readers.  It turned out that using a “click here” approach for hyperlink text presented navigational problems as they used their screen reader tool to jump from link to link within a given page.

Screen readers announce the hypertext of a link as it gains focus in the browser.  And having a computer say “Click here, click here, click here, click here” repeatedly is not nearly as screen reader friendly as having it say, “Summer reading list, elementary level list, intermediate level list, high school level list.”  Here’s a more accessible example:

For your convenience, here is a copy of the full summer reading list.  You can also see only the Elementary level list, the Intermediate level list,  or High School level list.

Now aware of this issue, many web content curators began to modify their linking habits . . . except for the IT Department, whose staff attended the annual conference but “didn’t get it.”  They continued to cling to their “click here” tradition, and would insist others do it when working on collaborative projects with them.

Which just goes to show, that although there are wonderful advances in the realm of accessibility . . . there is still no existing technology that can make up for a lack of empathy.