Website Writing Guide

Web writing and presentation style

Hyperlinking styles

Hyperlinking from one Web page to another is a defining feature of the Web. After all, the http, that precedes every Web address is the acronym for, hypertext transfer protocol.

Hyperlinks are found in sidebar menus, header or footer menus, lists and in body text. It is important to develop a consistent style throughout a website.

The challenge of hyperlinking

Hyperlinks in menus

Hyperlinks in the body text

Top-of-page hyperlinks to headings below (like these headings)

Hyperlinks back to top-of-page

 

The challenge of hyperlinking

Hyperlinking allows the writer to give users the choice whether to read a more detailed explanation on another page, follow links to related websites or read comments in a blog. Hyperlinking is a powerful tool because users love to help themselves and to be in control.

Writers who are used to writing paper-based documents sometimes forget to employ hyperlinking. Hyperlinking requires the writer to think about layering the content (see Layering content), splitting it across pages and giving the reader instant access to a world of information on the topic.

Content on the Web should not be presented in a linear, sequential manner because that's not how people use the Web. Unless the website is purely instructional such as an online tutorial, don't expect users to politely follow your content sequentially. This is counter-intuitive to the Web, where the user is confronted with hyperlinks in the navigation menus surrounding the text, not to mention the Google search bar beckoning at the top of the browser.

Using word processors when composing text for the Web doesn't help writers change their habits either. It's not to say don't use a word processor, but when composing a Web page in say MS Word, remember to use hyperlinks to give the user control over the information.

 

Hyperlinks in menus

The use of sentence case, a capital for the first word and lower case for subsequent words (except for proper nouns) is recommended for all hyperlinks in menus.

For example: Site map or Contact us. - see Use of capitals for headings

All hyperlink headings should have the user in mind. They must be clearly descriptive of the information found on the page to which they link.

 

Hyperlinks in the body text

Hyperlinks in the body text are usually used for linking to other internal Web pages, to external websites and to PDFs and other document types.

Notes on hyperlinks in the body text:

  • The hyperlinked text should indicate the topic or nature of the link.
  • The hyperlinked text should be as brief as possible to avoid overwhelming users and creating a messy page.
  • Hyperlinks should replicate the page name or document title as far as practical so users recognise the new document or Web page when it appears.
  • Hyperlinks should stand out visually on the page by colour differentiation, contrast or underlining.
  • Indicate where the hyperlink goes – an external website, PDF, Word document – see PDFs for the correct presentation format.
  • Do not use click here as the hyperlink because the user’s eye is drawn to 'click here' rather than to the important information such as the name of the document being linked to.
  • Do not scare or confuse users with too many hyperlinks on any one page. If you think you have too many hyperlinks on one page consider:
    • breaking the content across many pages
    • grouping the hyperlinks so they are not scattered through the page – place them under headings or at the bottom of the page under More information
    • identifying unnecessary links and omitting them.


Example 1

These illustrate how to provide succinct hyperlinks that avoid overwhelming users and avoid ‘click here’.

  • Find out everything you need to know about copyright.
  • Find out everything you need to know about copyright.
  • Click here to find out everything you need to know about copyright.

  • Use our free clutter test to see how much white space your web pages have.
  • How much white space do your Web pages have? Use our free clutter test to find out.
  • Click here to use our free clutter test to see how much white space your web pages have.

 

Example 2

These illustrate brevity in the use of the hyperlink. The hyperlink in the preferred version matches exactly the heading of the page to which users are taken.

  • See also: Information about writing and presentation styles
  • See also: Information about writing and presentation styles

 

Example 3

These illustrate how to inform the user that the hyperlink takes them out of the current site to another website. This technique is not required if your website uses a graphic icon to indicate external hyperlinks.

  • Visit the Government Auctions website.
  • Visit the Government Auctions website
  • Visit Government Auctions

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Top-of-page hyperlinks to headings below

This hyperlinking technique has been used on this page.

Top-of-page heading navigation can be employed at the author’s discretion when any or all of these conditions occur:

  • The quantity of information on a Web page is such that users must scroll down two or more screens. It is unnecessary to use top-of-page heading navigation where only one or two headings appear below the fold in the screen.
  • When there is a large quantity of information on a Web page that cannot sensibly be broken up into a series of Web pages – eg
    • where it is felt that the user needs to see an entire step-by-step process and forcing them to move from screen to screen may affect their concentration or comprehension of the material
    • the information is such that it is highly likely that users will wish to print the page of information and it would be inconvenient if it were broken up across several pages. 
  • An overview of all the headings in the Web page at the top of the page would assist users to understand the breadth of content in the page and the context of each heading in relation to the other headings.
  • If the information on a Web page is divided into so many headings that the user may get lost or forget some of the headings if left simply to scroll up and down the page.
  • Users are likely not to need or want to read all the information on the page, rather they are likely to want to go directly to one or two sections most relevant to them.

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Hyperlinks back to top-of-page

  • Provide the headings at the top of the page with a brief lead-in sentence that makes it clear that the list of headings refers to content on this one Web page – ie they are not links off to other pages.
  • The hyperlinked headings do not require bullet points unless they represent a step-by-step process or a sequence in which case number the headings
  • Provide users with a ‘return to top of page’ hyperlink device that enables them to return to the top of the page without the need for scrolling. The hyperlink device should be placed  immediately underneath the last line of text under every heading that appears below the first fold in the screen.
  • There is no need to provide a ‘return to top of page’ hyperlink for the first or second section if the user can still see the top of the screen.
 
Other topics in this section

Guide Home | Write directly and succinctly | Paragraph and sentence styles | Heading hierarchy |
Web page navigation
| Scrolling and page length | Making content accessible |
Presenting instructions | Writing for Google | Capitals in headings | Hyperlinking styles |
Acronyms
| Brackets | PDFs |

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