Web Design Basics: Good Linking Advice

When designing your website, it is important to make your links clear and appealing to your visitors. These guidelines will help you create the best possible links on your site.

Most websites have multiple links amongst the content on the pages. It is critical to make the links stand out so that visitors can easily navigate your site and find the information they are seeking. If visitors cannot find or identify links on your site, they are likely to leave your site.

There are several kinds of links you can provide for your visitors:

- A link to another page on your website

- A link to another website

- A link to a location on the same web page

- A link to an email window

Use these design guidelines to optimize all of the links on your site.

What should links look like?

Most links are text. To differentiate them from the non-linking text on a page, links should generally be a different color. It is also very common - and informative - to underline links. In a page of black text, blue, underlined text pops out and most visitors will immediately know they are the links on the page.

Links can also be graphic elements. The most successful graphical links look like something you should click on - for example, a button.

The visited link color should generally be a more "dull" version of the link text color, to help the visitor track what pages he has already seen.

If links are in a menu or navigation bar, it is not as important for them to be underlined or colored. The design of the navigation should make it clear they are links.

Tip: Keep in mind that colorblind visitors may have trouble distinguishing red and green or low-contrast colors. Underlining is an extra help for color-blind people.

What is special about linking to another website?

Anytime you link to another website, you are inviting someone to leave your website. If your site is a business, or if you sell advertising, your goal is generally to keep people on your own web site. In addition, people may get confused when they follow a link and leave your site; they may be unsure how to return.

Given these issues, consider off-site links very carefully. Does the context of the link make it clear the visitor is leaving your site? Consider also opening the link in a new window, so that your page stays visible in the original window and the user does not have to navigate backward.

Why would I link to information on the same page?

Sometimes, on large web pages, it is helpful to provide navigation to go directly to elements on the same page. Some good examples of this are for a large index: place the letters of the alphabet at the top of the page, with a link from each letter to jump to that section of the index. This is also commonly used for Frequently Asked Questions pages: the questions are listed at the top of the page, so visitors can easily scan them, and the questions link to the answers, which are located lower on the page.

These solutions save the user from scrolling and scrolling to search out the information.

Email links

To easily allow visitors to contact you by email, link your email address to automatically open a mail window when the visitor clicks on it. This is simply a convenience for your visitors, but ensures they are able to easily mail you.

Using a variety of clearly identified links helps your visitors navigate your site and locate important information. Good link design is a keystone of good web site design.

© High Speed Ventures 2011