On the web, people are on the hunt for answers. The way we set up a page influences how people move through our content. When we add links, we can provide more context or move people to the next step in a process without bloating a page with too much information.

A well-placed link can provide a “scent of information” that people can follow easily to complete a task. But adding the wrong link in the wrong place can send people in frustrating circles and prevent them from using your web page successfully.

When designing content that includes links, focus on 3 keys to success:

  1. when to add links
  2. where to place links
  3. how to write good link text

Just because we can add links everywhere in our content doesn’t mean we should.

Links act as road signs for off-ramps. They help guide users. They also attract attention. People assume that a link is there to be followed.

Imagine a very busy 8-lane freeway with signs pointing in all directions. Confusing, right? Should I stay in my lane or take the off-ramp?!

Too many off-ramps are a sure way to get your users hopelessly lost in your web content.

Reduce decision fatigue. Only add links that will actually help with the task at hand.

If the link doesn’t truly support the task of the page, don’t put it on the page.

Where links are placed on a page has a big impact on how effective they are.

Splattering links here and there in the middle of sentences and paragraphs:

  • makes them easy to miss when you’re scanning
  • interrupts the flow of the sentence for anyone using a screen reader
  • adds complexity by creating the impression that you can’t fully understand the text without following the link to get the rest of the story

Instead, take the link text out of the paragraph and place it on it’s own line to help it stand out and be found.

Instead of:

A Food Guide serving is how much food you should eat from each of the 4 food groups every day.


A Food Guide serving is how much food you should eat from each of the 4 food groups every day.

Number of daily food servings for children, teens and adults

By pulling links out of paragraphs and making them stand on their own, you make them less distracting and easier to find when people are scanning.

Often people are looking at your page on mobile devices. They see the tiny portion of the page that is available on their screen. If that page is structured well, they are able to quickly scan & jump to what they need. However, if you place crucial details after a link, people may not get there before they take the “off-ramp” and never come back.

For example, you wouldn’t place the link to an online application before the details of what a person needs to complete the application. This could result in incomplete applications and increased calls from confused applicants who followed the application link before reading the instructions.

Carefully consider the sequence you want people to follow when determining where to place a link.

Be careful about burying links that are crucial to completing a task at the bottom of the page.

“Related Links” sections at the bottom of a page tend to be seen as “nice-to-have” not “need-to-have” information. In a world of information overload, you can’t assume that the majority of your audience will take the time to peruse anything they consider only “nice-to-have.”

On the web, people are on a mission and they’re moving fast. If you’re providing a link that is crucial to their task, make that obvious by placing it within the flow of the task, not in a “Related links” section.

“Related links are random links that are there” - usability research participant

Your link labels should be descriptive. They should be able to stand alone so that it’s clear what people can expect to find if they follow the link.

You can “activate” or “deactivate” link labels just by the words you choose. “Prepare your quarantine plan” is a more attractive label than “Provincial and territorial requirements” because it starts with a verb.

When you start a link label with a verb, you make the text more active. When you use only nouns, the link feels more passive. Use this technique to emphasize the more important links on a page and make them more attractive than the links that are there for more information but are less important to the task.

Your link label doesn’t need to exactly match the title of the page it’s linking to, although the two should be clearly related. It’s more important to create the right “scent of information” to lead people where you want them to go.

We’ve talked about the wording of links in a couple of our previous blog posts:

Final word

Canada.ca is the source for Canadians to find the answers they need from the Government of Canada. Everyone needs clear paths to information. Remove barriers and make it easier for people to find those paths through careful selection, strategic placement and clear labelling of your links.

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