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Web standards for links

All web standards are mandatory for web pages on the Surrey County Council website, S-net and microsites.

Create successful user journeys with your links

Find out below about creating meaningful link text, the importance of linking to child pages, our criteria for linking to external websites and why pages should not contain broken links.

Please use the index below to jump to a section on this page:

  • Link text should be relevant and meaningful. Do not use 'click here' or similar generic terms for link text. Do not use identical text for links to different target pages.
  • Do not include http:// in the link text in the body text of a page, eg use www.surreycc.gov.uk or twitter.com.
  • Check all links work and go to the correct internal or external web page.
  • Link text should be lower case - unless it is at the start of a sentence or it is an acronym.

Guidance

  • The text of a link should give a clear indication where it will lead to as screen readers will read this text out to visually impaired visitors. For this reason, do not use generic phrases such as "click here", "here" and "read more". Use meaningful words and phrases, preferably the title of the page you are linking to or similar, such as "Reporting a pothole", "Guildford park and ride service" etc.
  • Try to make your links concise but specific – three to six words is often a good length for a link. Do not link whole lines or multiple lines.
  • Don't use the same text for more than one link on a page. For example if you have links to three bus timetables, don't use 'bus timetable' for each link. Instead make each one different; "Guildford bus timetable", "Woking bus timetable", "Frimley bus timetable".
  • When linking to an external website, mention in the text either immediately before or after the link the name of the website eg BBC's Online learning resources page or Online learning resources on the BBC website to make it absolutely clear that the destination is an external website.

Examples

Original: Click here for more details about Guildford Museum's open day.
Changed: Guildford Museum's open day will be held on 24 October.

  • "Click here" gives no information about where the link will lead to.

Original: Fill in our feedback form to comment about our services.
Changed: If you have any comments about our services, fill in our feedback form.

Original: There are six leaflets available
Changed: There are six countryside walks leaflets available.

  • Expanding the link helps to make it more specific and informative.

Reason for this web standard

Accessibility and usability - this standard is mandatory for accessibility and usability reasons.

Accessibility - clear links help the visually impaired navigate our website better with screen readers and it helps everyone find the information they are looking for. W3C has more information about Link purpose (in context) including recommendations for link text and sentences containing links.

Usability - links with meaningful link text make navigating through the website easy.

Use page id numbers for links to Matrix pages

Links on Matrix pages that lead to other SCC Matrix pages must use asset IDs rather than URLs. A page's asset ID can be found in the page's footer or by looking it up in Matrix. Using the asset finder when setting up the link in Matrix will automatically use the asset ID and is the recommended method for setting up links. See the help pages within Matrix for more details.

Reason for this web standard

Technical - this standard is mandatory for technical reasons. Using the asset ID for the link will prevent the link breaking if the destination page is moved or renamed.

Linking to child pages and See also links

  • Make sure you link to all child (sub) pages in the 'In this section' links or in the body text of the parent (category) page, not in See also links.
  • Use See also links only for related pages in other categories on the website.

Guidance

  • Category pages automatically list the pages that are located beneath them (the child pages) in the 'In this section' list. If you turn off this automatic listing (for example, to rearrange the order of the list under different headings and/or to add links to pages in other categories to the list) then you must make sure that you still include links to all of the published child pages in the body text (content area) of the page.
  • There are many reasons why you should not create a page under one category and then link it from a different one:
    1. The page will have the wrong crumbtrail (navigation links at the top of the page).
    2. Webmasters may withdraw the page because they may believe it is an orphan page which is not allowed.
    3. Anyone else maintaining your area of the website may not understand where the page is linked in.
    4. The link could be removed from the other page, meaning your page cannot be found by search engines or read by anyone.
    5. It causes problems with the information architecture of the website that is designed to categorise pages within their own subject area.
  • See also links should only link to related pages in other categories on the website and not be used for child pages.
  • Always consult Web and Digital Services about any changes to the structure (information architecture - IA) of your website category.

Example

The category called 'Fruit' has three pages published in it; 'Apples', 'Bananas' and 'Cherries'. The Fruit page must link to all three pages (even if other pages link to them as well) in the main content area of the page either under 'In this section' or in the text of the page.

Reason for this web standard

Technical and usability - this standard is mandatory for usability reasons.

Technical - the Surrey County Council search engine and external search engines crawl down links to find pages, so if a page is not linked in to the website, it can't be found and will not appear in search results.

Usability - Visitors should be able to follow the crumbtrail to move up the site structure (from a child page to a parent page) then they should also be able to move back down the structure by following links on the page.

If you don't link to all of the child pages from the page immediately above, it makes navigating through the site more difficult.

By keeping In this section for child pages and See also for pages in other categories, we create clear navigation paths so that the user will know what to expect and will complete a successful user journey.

Links to external websites

Make sure external links meet our criteria (below). Do not add links to third party discussion areas and forums.

Our criteria for external web links:

  • Do not link to websites with illegal or offensive content.
  • Do not link to websites with an unmoderated forum or chat room (if comments are not checked before going public, they may contain unsuitable material).
  • Be careful about promoting a particular product or company as it may lead to complaints of unfairness from other similar companies. If you add a link to a particular company, you must be prepared to justify it. You must also be prepared to add links to similar companies if requested to do so, unless there is a valid reason not to.
  • Although Web and Digital Services regularly fix broken links, it is your responsibility as page author to ensure that all of the external links on your web page are still relevant when you review or republish your page. Web pages change unpredictably and URLs for withdrawn pages can be redirected to inappropriate content, so you must always check links.
  • Avoid linking only to the home page of websites and instead link to the page or pages that are directly relevant to the information on your page. This makes sure visitors find the information you want them to read and saves them time having to find it themselves.

Reason for this web standard

To maintain the council's reputation as a trusted service provider, we must ensure that we link to reputable websites with reliable information that is suitable for all. When selecting websites to link to, we have an obligation to be responsible and fair, particularly as we receive many requests to link to other sites and it is not possible to link to them all.

Mail to links (live email address links)

Do not use mail to links (live email address links) in public web pages and remove those generated automatically by Squiz Matrix.

Guidance

Some websites use these links. These look like ordinary links but when you click on them, they automatically open a new email in your email program to be sent to the email address specified in the code. These links are not allowed on our website for technical and usability reasons (see below). Instead, either provide a link to the Feedback form, an e-Suite form or provide a team or generic email address in plain text that can be copied and pasted into an email program.

Reason for this web standard

Technical and usability - this standard is mandatory for technical and usability reasons.

Technical - mail to links do not always work properly in all web browsers.

Usability - mail to links are only effective if someone is using their own computer with their own email account. For people using a library or Internet café computer or a borrowed computer, a mail to link will not be able set up an email from a personal email account, so an email cannot be sent using mail to. A Feedback form asks for an email address or contact details to be provided, so it is up to the customer to give their preferred email address for us to reply to. A plain text email address on a web page can be noted down and added to an email when the person is at their own computer.

Broken links

There must not be any broken links on the page.

Guidance

  • Before you publish a page, use the Preview button to view the draft of your web page in the browser and check that all of the links work.
  • When you review a page, check again that all of the links work. Unfortunately, websites change frequently and you can't rely on a link to still be working six months later.
  • Web and Digital Services regularly monitor the website for broken links using the Siteimprove link checker. However, as you own the page, you may be able to find a more appropriate link replacement, so if you do come across a broken link, you must fix it.
  • If there is no appropriate replacement for a broken link, you will need to reword the text and remove the link.
  • Sometimes websites go offline temporarily for maintenance, so if you find a broken link to a website that you believe is still current, contact the organisation who owns the site to find out how long it will be unavailable and if it is going to be more than a few days, you will need to remove the link and replace it at a later date when the site is working again.

Reasons for this web standard

Usability and good practice - this standard is mandatory for usability reasons.

Broken links are very frustrating for visitors. They cost us and visitors time and money if they have to contact us because they can't find the information that they are looking for. Broken links also affect our accessibility rating. It is good practice to fix broken links as soon as they are found.

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