Link Text and Opening New Windows


Hyperlinks are at the heart of the web, so it is critical that they be functionally accessible to all users. The text content of a link must provide a clear indication of the destination of the link. Links with the text “click here” or “more” are ambiguous when taken out of context and force users to examine content surrounding the link to infer its probable destination. This is a minor annoyance to sighted users, but a major problem for speech reader users.

Text surrounded by graphics may be readable by sighted users; however, a user relying on a speech reader will be confused by the jumbled document order and it is unlikely they will be able to find the important contextual content. The result is speech reader users following unrelated links or missing a useful link and therefore have a generally frustrating user experience.

Links that open pages in new windows, using the target attribute of a elements, are also problematic. Many developers use this with links that take users to external websites, assuming that the user may return to the original window to resume browsing the original web resource. In this way, the user/s browsing history is destroyed so that the user cannot use the “back” key to return to the linking resource. This is especially a problem for screen reader users who may have missed the warning that a new window was opened, or not have been warned at all. They can easily become confused when the “back” button does not take them back to the linking resource. Moreover, opening new windows adds to desktop clutter and confusion. However, it is important to note that most graphical browsers allow users to decide if they want to open links in new windows.

Benefits to People with Disabilities

  1. Screen reader users can easily identify destinations of links.
  2. Not setting the target attribute of a elements to “_new” prevents the confusion and frustration of screen reader users over the flow of the browsing history, making navigation easier.
  3. When alt attribute content is defined and describes the destination of the image link, image links are more accessible to screen reader users. Additionally, alt attribute content can be rendered in place of the image by some graphical browsers, resulting in better accessibility.

Benefits to Everyone

  1. Link text that clearly communicates the target of the link makes navigation easier.
  2. When setting the target attribute of a elements to “_new” is restrained, the user has the control over where to open links, so that the user has better awareness of the browing history.
  3. Links will be more completely accessible to users on a wider range of technologies.

Benefits to Developers

  1. Using link text that indicates the target of the link makes it easier to find and update links on web resources.

More Information

  1. W3C WCAG 1.0 link techniques
  2. 18: HTML links – let/s build a web! (Opera Web Standards Curriculum)


a[tabindex=-1] (HTML4)

area (HTML4)

img (HTML4)

[alt] (HTML4)

a (HTML4)

Related Accessibility Requirements

Section 508

Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Standards

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0