W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > July to September 2003

Results of links usage question

From: Michael Cooper <michaelc@watchfire.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2003 16:36:05 -0400
Message-ID: <D9ABD8212AFB094C855045AD80FB40DD017E0AC9@1WFMAIL>

Last week I posted a message asking how people use lists. A number of people
replied. Thank you all. I thought it would be useful to send a summary of
the responses. Some of the replies were from people not subscribed to the
lists on which the message originally appeared so I am sending this to the
lists and individually to the people who replied - I apologize for any
duplication this causes.

A number of people expressed a concern that the Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines group is attempting to over-legislate how authors should design
pages. I apologize if I conveyed that impression; I was just trying to
collect data but perhaps wrote the questions too quickly. We do not mean to
do this; in fact we originally decided to solicit input from users because
we were considering removing requirements that some see as limiting, but
were unsure of the impact that would have on users of screen readers. This
input will help us to understand what characteristics are vital to
accessibility and what are better left out of the guidelines and techniques.
The responses I received were very helpful toward that goal.

Here's the summary. The summary doesn't capture every single comment but
does capture the dominant issues raised.


The links list is useful on familiar pages, or where you know what link
you're looking for (especially searching by first letter); but is generally
not useful on unfamiliar pages.

There was a split preference between the links list vs. tabbing among links,
people mostly do one or the other.

There were various opinions on using surrounding context to clarify links.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't; people reported different success
ratios ranging from "usually" works to "usually doesn't".

People don't follow links that are ambiguous and can't be clarified by

Most people like links to convey information about the content of the page
and find pages more useful where this is the case. Predominantly this is for
inline links.

Links are easier to use when authors provide the title attribute and make
sure the link text is fully explained.

Other things people like to know about links (provided by the user agent):
whether it's visited, refers to the same page, protocol (e.g., FTP).

Characteristics of links that present problem: 
* Ambiguous or stock text (e.g., "click here") - many hate though some say
they're ok if context available.
* Null link text, e.g., a linked image with null or missing alt text.
* Long link text
* Useless text: things like "logo", auto-generated alt texts, abbreviations
* Multiple instances of same link text, especially if the links go to
different targets

No preference on whether links should be organized into a navigation bar or
inline with document content, both are useful depending on context.
Navigation bars should have a skip link.

Michael Cooper
Accessibility Project Manager
1 Hines Rd
Kanata, ON  K2K 3C7
+1 613 599 3888 x4019
Received on Wednesday, 13 August 2003 16:36:19 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 13 October 2015 16:21:25 UTC