How to Create Informative Links on the University of Maine System Website
The University of Maine System website follows the Associated Press Online Stylebook (External Site). Because the University of Maine System is an institution of higher learning and an institution that prioritizes accessible web content, consistency and accuracy are important. Please review your web content for errors in style, spelling and grammar.
Guidelines about hyperlinks and linked text can be found below.
How links work
A link on a web page has at least two elements: what the reader sees to click on, and the destination to which that click takes them. The destination is usually a web page, PDF or email address, but in some cases (such as mobile devices) a link may launch a phone call or other mobile app. In all situations, there needs to be an indication that the link exists (such as text, an image or button), and that indication should be helpful to the reader.
With a basic link, there is underlined text that invites a reader to click. In many cases, a web address can get automatically converted into a clickable link (this happens in email quite frequently), for example:
However, the web address usually should not be displayed—the link destination and the text for the link are separate attributes, and almost always it is better to use the text of a link to describe where that link will take someone:
Example: The link will take you to the University of Maine System website or This link will take you to the University of Maine System website.
Use descriptive text for links
There are two very important reasons to use descriptive text for your links:
- Screen reader users can generate a list of links on a page, and navigate them alphabetically. If the link text is the URL, a screen reader will spell out a web address letter-by-letter, which is not helpful and frustrating to the listener for long web addresses. Users reading the website with a screen reader will also need additional context for where a link will take them, as some URLs are not descriptive and do not have contextual language surrounding the link.
- Search engines use link text to better understand the topic of the page to which that link refers.
For both of these reasons, it is better to use phrases as your link text, and not single words.
Common link text to avoid
Below you will find examples of text that, if linked without any additional context, might be confusing for the user.
Note: these examples are not clickable links.
Correct: Include the document name: 2018 Annual Report (PDF)
Correct: include more text: You can find the the Fall 2018 syllabus here
Correct: Include more text: Click here for more registration details.
Incorrect: http://… (a website URL)
Correct: Instead, replace the web address with the name of the website.
Images as links
Images may also be used in place of link text. When an image functions as a link, the image alt text must serve the purpose of link text. In this case, it is acceptable for the image alt text to describe the link destination instead of the image that is being displayed.
If an image needs to be described for screen readers—such as an image that includes data—and that description does not serve for good link text, avoid using the image itself as a link.
Links to email addresses
When you are using link text around an email address, it is acceptable to display the email address as the link text.
For example: email@example.com is acceptable.
Links to outside websites (External Links / External Site)
External Links are hyperlinks that point at (or target) any domain that is not within the domain the link exists on the source website. For example, a link to the University of Maine Presque Isle’s website www.umpi.edu (External Site) from a University of Maine System webpage is a link that will take a user to a new website.
The University of Maine System website does not automatically open a new browser tab when a link points to an external website, but the site editor should designate that a link should open in a new tab as the default setting is for links to open within a new tab. In either case, a new website and/or new tab opening can surprise users if not labeled properly and thus decreases usability. Additionally, poorly labeled external links harm a website’s Search Engine Optimization, which can harm a website’s ability to be found by Google and other search engines.
Additionally, due to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Resolution and Section 508, all external materials—especially those which would not otherwise be accessible—must be labeled.
Because of this, the following guidance is offered for links to sites and PDFs outside of www.maine.edu:
Write “(External Site)” or “(External PDF)” within linked text when an external website or PDF is linked.