This blog on accessible links continues our series, looking into what comparisons can be made between inaccessible website elements, which an AXSChat Podcast inspired. 

After finishing my original blog, I decided to expand and tell you a bit more about specific areas of assistive technology features that should be used and accessible within a digital platform. This should be the case whether on a website, a document, or any other digital information.

This specific blog features scenarios for online information that are alongside website elements. This includes items such as when to open links in a new window or remain in the same tab, providing context when labelling links, and how to write accessible links for downloadable documents. 

When Links Should Open in a New Window or Remain Within the Same Tab

There are certain expectations when activating elements on digital platforms, such as links, buttons, and fields. 

For example, you would expect:

  • A link to take you to a different page within the same website.
  • Selecting a button would open extra information or perform an action on the same page. 
  • A field would enable you to select different options. 

If you have a link that does not tell you any difference, then the presumption is that you will stay on the same website and easily navigate around all of the other information provided. However, suppose a link opens in a new window or tab without indication. In that case, people may find themselves looking on an alternative website without even realising they have navigated away to a different window, which would cause a lot of confusion for the user. So, avoid setting your links to open in a new window to eradicate this accessibility barrier.

An exception to this rule is links that direct users to items such as a privacy policy or a notice link within a contact form. If one of these links opens in the same window, users may lose the information they have entered into a form if they need to return to reference information or instructions on a previous web page. Whereas, if a link opens in a new window or tab, then the person will be able to go between both pages, reading the privacy policy when necessary and then continuing to complete and submit the form. Therefore, providing a notification within a link’s label will give the person the confidence that they will be able to read the policy in one window and complete the form in another. 

This emphasises the need for all websites to be created consistently, following the same rules to be accessible. If this were the case, then all users would have confidence and assurance that when activating a link, which does not state they will be directed to a new window, they can expect to stay within the same website.

How To Write Accessible Links For Downloadable Documents 

There is also a need to provide additional information when labelling links for downloadable documents, such as a PDF, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or any other documents you can think of. 

Knowing what the link is opening allows the user to decide whether to download the file. The user may not have the correct software or enough memory on their device to read it. So, by providing the file type they will download and the size of the file can assist in their decision-making. 

These indications alongside links are not just for people who use assistive technology but can help everyone.

 A Comparison of the Need For Providing Link Context

As Christmas is just around the corner, we’ll look at a festive comparison to get you thinking about how to provide context in links to assist users online:  

For Christmas, one of the presents that you received was a large cash amount on a voucher, so you can go clothes shopping. Well, I can hear half of you cheering and the other half, which is most probably your partner, that you’ll be dragging around the shops, not being as cheery. I always think of a nice café to sit in while my wife shops. Lol.

Anyway, you go into the shop and have a look around, but nothing catches your eye until you come across another door within the store. On opening the door, the room is full of clothes that take your fancy. After half an hour, you have selected lots of clothes and head to the checkout with a big smile. After the staff member has put all the items through the checkout, you hand over your voucher, which will cover the bill. However, the staff member tells you that the voucher is for the other shop you first entered, and now you are in a totally different store. Also, to get back into the other shop, you can’t return through the same door. You have to walk out of the current shop and go around the corner to the original shop that will accept your voucher.

Now, to stop all that disappointment, inconvenience and wasted time, if the name of the other shop were written on the door you went through, then you would be able to decide whether to go through and have a look, knowing your voucher would not be accepted in there, or focus on the shop you are in.

So, what I’m trying to say is that a little consideration when writing links online can provide context for your online audience and assist them with navigation, completing actions, and helping users make informed decisions.  

Eliminating Inaccessible Digital Platforms

I know I have used this last paragraph at the end of each of this series of blogs, but it relays the important message of all the blogs written:

These are just a few comparisons between most people’s everyday life experiences and one of the inaccessible features of digital information in their life. However, there really is no need for any inaccessible areas, as there are always alternatives. 

Think about when you could not get access to something. Whether it is in a shop or around your normal life experiences. There is no real reason why you should not be able to gain access. It is usually due to someone having made it inaccessible to you because of the design and not thinking of your individual needs as a customer in a specific situation.

It’s time to make a change and be inclusive.

Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging about ways that you can adapt your websites to achieve digital accessibility and improve the user experience for everyone.

For more details about how we can help with website accessibility testing, please get in touch with our team today.