Link functionality is about ensuring a link functions the way it is expected to. When it comes to accessibility, a link must perform an action that is stated in the website or link text. If a link does not perform an action properly, users may get frustrated with the functionality of the website. In addition, a link must always function in a way that will enhance the accessibility of a webpage. When links are incorporated to a webpage, the following links must be taken into consideration for a functional website: Skip Navigation Links, Plugin/ Document Reader Links, Word Mark links, and Broken Links.
Skip Navigation links are anchor links typically at the top of the page that direct users to the main content of the web page. Skip Navigation links should always be incorporated into a webpage as they allow users bypass excessive links, creating easier access to the main information of the page. This is particularly useful for web pages with numerous links; without a skip navigation link, users must navigate through all this links before accessing the main content. Navigating through all the links can become tedious work for users and they may get frustrated having to perform this action numerous times. Skip navigation will ultimately enhance the accessibility of the page by making it easier to access information and therefore enhance the functionality of a web page.
Plug-ins/ Document Readers
Plug-ins/ Document Readers are links to software downloads that users need to view web content. Web pages often have additional documentation or videos to provide visitors in distinct formats such as PDF, Word, Excel, Flash, etc.. This can be a problem for not all users share the same programs or software and therefore some users may not have the different document formats installed on their computer. As a result, when web pages have links to documents in different formats, there must be a link to download a plug-in or document reader. Providing a download link to the document viewers will ensure a user has the ability to acquire the correct software to open and access the information in the document.
Wordmark links are links placed on a websites logo that direct a user to the websites home page. These links are placed in all the pages of a website, usually at the top of the page and and provide users quicker access to the homepage. Wordmark links are becoming an increasingly common practice in websites, but when creating these links, it is important to ensure these links direct users to the page they expect it to take them. A wordmark must always direct a user to a websites homepage. If the wordmark directs a user to a different page, a user may get confused and believe the website does not function properly.
Broken Links are links that are not valid or functioning. For a website to be fully functional, no broken links should be present on a page. When broken links are present in a page, users may experience frustration for not being able to access the information they are seeking. Developers must always check the links in a website to make sure they are up to date. There are different types of broken links that could be present on a page:
- (404) Page not Found: this means the page the link is directing to no longer exists or may have been moved to a different link path
- (410) Page Gone: this broken link error appears when a link is directing a user to a page that is no longer available for viewing
- (B01) Bookmark and/or Anchors not found: Bookmark links or anchors such as a skip navigation link are not functioning correctly.
NOTE: Developers should always check all their links for "fake broken links". At times, when websites remove a page they will redirect the link to a new page that lets users know that the previous page no longer exists. These links may cause confusion to users who may believe the link is broken when it in fact is a redirect.
Why is Link Functionality Important?
To create an accessible and user-friendly website, all the links in a page should always be functional. Valid links will ensure all website visitors obtain the information they need and do not experience barriers to acquiring this information.
- Skip navigation links are important for keyboard-only users or assistive technology users with mobility or visual impairments. These users heavily rely on skip navigation links to access information for it provides them easier navigation to information that often may take a while to navigate to when a webpage has numerous links. While other users can use a computer mouse to scroll down the page and reach the main content in a matter of seconds, users with disabilities are not able to do this unless a skip navigation link is present.
- Links to download plug-ins and document readers are useful for all website users to acquire the software and tools needed to obtain the information in a page. When users are unable to obtain the information because of missing plug-ins or software, they may get frustrated and abandon the page because they are unable to access additional content provided on the website. It is easy and convenient to provide links to users for document and reader plug-ins so they could access the content.
- Wordmark links has become standard practice for modern websites and users expect the wordmark to be a link to a website’s homepage. Without the wordmark as links, users will be forced to use their browser’s back button and go through all of their visited pages to get to the homepage.
- When it comes to broken links, website visitors will expect that all the features in the page will function the way they are supposed to. When broken links are present, users may feel a webpage is out of date and are less likely to visit revisit a website.