"Click Here" for Useful Link Writing

"Click Here" - Good, Bad, or only Dull?

If you write only, "Click here" as your link copy text then you:

  • Are dull.
  • Don't know what a link is.
  • Don't mind people laughing at you behind your back.

Are you still here? Then let's explain and turn you from being an average link writer into a global superstar link-writing revolutionary!

Is Click the Right Term?

Yes. We "click" on links: all of us; whether tapping, gesturing, pressing keyboard buttons, or blinking.

So why shouldn't we use, "Click here" in our links? Well, "Click here to do something..." is not really the problem. "Click here" is. Then again, "Click here..." is far from optimal link writing.

The Common Misunderstanding about Clicking Mouse Buttons

Some writers will tell you that, "Click Here" is bad because it is not an inclusive description of the human computer interaction (HCI) it describes. It is not accessible, they say: proof to me that they don't really know what, or more accurately where the "Click" occurs between our user and our interface.

The prevailing myth is that "Click" refers to the noise and hepatic feedback felt from pressing and releasing a mouse button. Crazy, I know! Of course, not everyone's HCI is via a mouse. "Click" therefore, cannot be inclusive to all of our users? What?! Isn't it obvious that the "Click" refers to the UI button: the sound and feel of pressing on the real world buttons that gave their affordance to user interface interactions (buttons on the screen)? (Look up affordance with Wikipedia).

A properly clickable button

Sourced from: http://www.tme.eu/en/details/m22-dlh-r/panel-mount-switches-standard-22mm/eaton-electric/

If you are unsure of this concept, then you really ought to read my blog article, "Click or Tap? Misunderstanding of Affordance". I hope to convince you there.

Everyone is Wrong and Pat's Right. Really?

So, we can write, "Click here..." because everyone can click? Hold your horses there partner.

Everyone who is anyone in the writing world seems to subscribe to the mouse button clicking myth. Even "W3C Quality Tips for Webmasters" get's the "click" affordance wrong (now closed, by the by, but available to influence). By example of an accomplished and published writer on the subject, Stephanie Leary writes,Why “click here” is a terrible link, and what to write instead. Each share our aim of writing links inclusively, but each subscribe to the "mouse click" myth. Sad. And they give less than optimal link writing examples, too.

So, I'm taking on much of the digital writing world here then? Yup. Why not? Just because everyone else is doing something doesn't mean that it's right. Right?

Here's an example from a web design company's homepage I found today. If their buttons were designed better, they'd not need, "Click Here". It's only noise.

Why not "Click Here?"

Let's be careful here. "Click here to do something useful" isn't necessarily bad. It's really not. It is not optimal though. To understand this, we must put ourselves in the place of our users.

Some of our users will scan through our links and hear or read only, "Click here to...", and "Click here to something else..". The problem is that this places an additional cognitive load on our user. Our user needs to work to discern between the invitation to "click" and separate this from the description of what will happen when they do click: the link transaction. It's not efficient. That's all. They know to click on a link already. The "Click here..." is additional, unnecessary, repeating noise.

So, we can write, "Click here to do something"? Yes. But it's not as useable or useful as describing only the link transaction: what happens after we click on the link. More importantly, we are not necessarily promoting a reason to click on the link at all, especially if all that repetition has turned them off further up the page.

Here is an example. Our user is visually or audibly scanning our link texts:

Example 1: Using "Click here"

Click here to read my fluid responsive philosophy.
Click here to read my design process.
Click here if you are a small business.

Our link-scanning Alternative (browsing) Technology (AT) user may only receive the following information:

I note that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt writers take a step further back and write, "Click Here to..." Can you imagine the AT browsing experience? "Here - Here - Here - Here..." Meaningless!

Example 2: Using "Click here to..."

Click here to read my fluid responsive philosophy.
Click here to read my design process.
Click here if you are a small business.

Our link-scanning AT user will receive the following information:.

Example 3: Stephanie O'Leary and W3C advocate the following:

Click here to read my fluid responsive philosophy.
Click here to read my design process.
Click here if you are a small business.

Our link-scanning AT user will only receive the following information:.

Verdict

So, (Example 2) "Click here to..." has some merit among these examples. (Example 1) "Click here" has none.

What of Stephanie's and W3C's (Example 3) suggestion? Well, the link's context is as a UI button - a link - so we are likely navigating somewhere. And we know the topic title. But what isn't communicated is that we are going to my own content. I think that is semantically and semiotically important enough to place within the link copy? I don't want anyone to miss it, after all!

Example 4: My Two Cent Worth:

Read my portfolio topic about fluid responsive design philosophy.
Read my portfolio topic about design process.
Go to my small business page.

Our link-scanning AT user will receive the following information - it's an exact match. Our users each receive the same experience of the link:

Related Note: Form Instructions

Although not often written as a link, it is worth adding a note that form instructions should perhaps avoid "Click" altogether. (There's the connection.) If we must direct our user to update a form element, then we can use more meaningful language. Examples you may consider:

  • Select a country.
  • Place a check in the box.
  • Type your name.
  • Choose an option.
  • Pick a date.
  • Click on the tab.

Microsoft Clicks Too

Microsoft's Manual of Style is a popular reference for Writers writing interaction instructions. It's worth noting (on Page 59 of Edition 4) that they advocate the following:

Click: Use for command buttons, option buttons, and options in a list, gallery, or palette.

Microsoft clicks "command buttons". That'll be links then! - Writers Against Click, take note. You are wrong. 'Just saying. And if you are still a doubter, turn to P.60.

Summary

Adding semantic information into the link copy enables link-scanning AT users to fully receive the link transaction as well as its context, avoid the repetition and cognitive load of, "Click here to...", and helps us to promote the destination in a more engaging, normal, and conversational way.

Using only, "Click Here" as your link copy is completely bonkers and is not conclusive to inclusive design. Bless the lazy and unknowing, eh?

Of course, our sighted users' experience depends on our user recognising where our links are...how they are styled...but that's another story entirely. In the meantime, go revolutionise your link copy writing!

What's Next?

Am I bonkers? Let me know in the comments...gently. You can add some link writing examples if you like, too. Give it a go.

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