Accessibility and URLs: Writing tips

Decayed URLs occur because of URL: rewriting; stopping; combining; expanding; and redirecting. The dynamic nature of URLs means that statistically over 3 years, on average, 50% of URLs are dead: The “not found” error message is the most common method of displaying dead URLs to the end user. How can URLs become more accessible?

Before analyses accessible link writing tips there are a few important clarifications required:

  • Accessibility allows web sites to simply be accessed
  • Accessibility is not focused on disability but on the ability of anyone to do things
  • URLs, otherwise known as hyperlinks or simply links, are pieces of HTML code that link 1 page to another

Write accessible hyperlinks

Think logically. Write URLs with a logical structure allowing anyone to know where they are. BusinessA.com/team/GeraldMurphy, for example, may be 3 clicks deep but logically written hyperlinks signal good information architecture practice because this link is about businessA (1st click), team (2nd click) and a specific employee: Gerald Murphy (3rd click).

Research keywords and include them in the link. When search engines rank web sites they look at where keywords are located and one of these places is within the hyperlink. This blog post’s URL contains the keywords “accessibility” and “urls”.

Use meta data. Alt and title attributes, alongside anchor text, are great places to start but they are often ignored. Write in a meaningful way, consistently.

Don’t go length mad. Long URLs are not human friendly. Create short links that are snappy with keywords present.

It’s all about context. Accessible URLs should make sense outside of their environment. If for example someone writes a hyperlink down on a piece of paper another person should be able to say: what company a URL belongs to; and what page a URL is.

UX

Components of user experience are: look, feel and usability. Copyright reused from Wikipedia Commons.

Accessible hyperlinks

URLs add to the overall user experience. Accessible hyperlinks further enhances the user experience because, for example, logical URLs create a calming affect on end users, for instance, by reducing anxious feelings of being lost within a web site.

Since accessibility makes things available to everyone it is also important to regularly carry out hyperlink audits. Find non-accessible links and edit them to make them functional and accessible. The larger your site is the more you will need to complete URL audits.

Would you like to add another accessible tip for URLs? Tweet Gerald.

References

  1. Sadat-Moosavi, A. Isfandyari-Moghaddam, A. and Tajeddini, O. (2012) ‘Accessibility of online resources cited in scholarly LIS journals: A study of Emerald ISI-ranked journals’. Aslib Procceddings: New Information Perspectives. 64(2) pp. 178–192
  2. Rutter, R. Lauke, P. Waddell, C. Thatcher, J. Henry, S.L. Lawson, B. Kirkpatrick, A. Heilmann, C. Burks, M.R. Regan, B. and Urban, M. (2006) Web Accessibility: Web standards and Regularory Compliance. Friends of Ed: New York.
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