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Stop saying this, because you’re making me cry

I’ve been doing web work for libraries for more than a couple of decades. When I started out, during the early days of the graphic web, libraries were spending significant amounts of staff time introducing the web and how it works to their communities.  Many patrons were learning how to navigate online, learning how to search and even how to use a mouse.  Not knowing how to use a browser or click a link was the norm for most.

But, here we are, more than twenty years on. Yes, I know that many libraries are still teaching some of these basics. Can we please collectively admit that those folks who don’t know how to use the web are now the outliers? The vast majority of our communities know how to click a link these days. Really.

Why am I pressing this particular point? Here’s why: How many times have you written link text that says “Click here?”

It’s likely a habit for you at this point.  It’s a convention that’s been around for seemingly eons.  But did you ever stop to think about why that text is included? It goes way back to those early days of the web, when people didn’t know what a hyperlink was. Links often included the “Click here” text as a visual clue. But, it’s 2022, and people don’t need that clue any more.

You might think “What is it hurting to have that there? It’s maybe dated, but it’s harmless, right?” Actually no, it’s not harmless. When “click here” is used, there are some common problems that result:

  • Loss of clarity. People don’t read much (if at all) online. They scan. They especially are looking for hyperlinks that contain text relevant to them. “Click here” is not relevant to anyone and is redundant with the function of a hyperlink.  Compare “Click here for the bestsellers list” to “Bestsellers list.”  Brevity is priceless.
  • It ignores other input methods. “Click” intimates that the user has a mouse. There are now many other types of input methods, including those used by assistive technology. So it’s not inclusive language.
  • It damages your site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization). One of the criterion used by search engine to rank content results is the language used. “Click here” literally just tells a search engine that a link exists and that’s it. No one searches Google for “click here.”
  • It’s bad for accessibility. Users who are using screen readers need descriptive text. Users with disabilities scan web pages just like those without and may not even access the rest of the content in which the link appears.

Do me, your library and every user a favor, and please stop using this phrase.  At the very least, I’ll probably go through fewer tissues.