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How Many Hyperlinks Are Too Many for Accessibility?

Mar 2, 2022

Does your website have too many hyperlinks?

That depends on your content. While there’s no hard limit to the number of links on each page, consider limiting hyperlinks to what makes sense.

If adding a link provides important context or navigational capabilities, add it — but if your page has too many unnecessary links, you might be creating a poor experience for users. To understand why, you’ll need to consider how links affect browsing behavior for some people with disabilities.

How Hyperlinks Affect Website Accessibility

The purpose of a hyperlink is to allow users to move from one webpage to another, but for some users, links provide important context for navigation.

Many people who use assistive technologies like screen readers (software that converts text to audio or braille) scan web pages for important links in order to find what they need. Popular screen readers like JAWS and NVDA can skip from one hyperlink to the next, skipping the text between the links. This can provide a better experience than reading through content in its entirety.

Screen reader users may also view an alphabetically-organized list of links to search for specific content. If the user wants to find a specific link, an organized list can help them find it.

Put simply, the user wants to find relevant information quickly, and they may not want to listen to every word of every page. However, if a website has a large number of irrelevant links, screen reader users may not be able to navigate easily. That’s especially true if the links don’t contain accurate link text, which describes the purpose of the link — if the link text simply reads “click here,” the user won’t know what the link actually does, particularly if they’re reading it out of context.

Related: Why Screen Readers Are Essential for Website Accessibility

Keyboard users are another group disproportionately impacted by an abundance of unnecessary hyperlinks. Using the Tab key, they move from one interactive element (like a link) to the next. If there are way too many and no there is no way to bypass them, people can become frustrated and tired from endlessly tabbing to move the focus where they want it.

Focus on Providing High-Quality Links that Enhance the User Experience

As recently as 2008, Google’s guidelines page recommended "fewer than 100" hyperlinks per web page. While that’s a useful rule of thumb, some websites (for instance, large ecommerce sites) might have legitimate reasons to publish pages with a greater number of links.

And on a small website, 100 hyperlinks might be far too many, particularly if those links are scattered throughout content or presented in disorganized menus. To find the right limit for your site, you’ll need to evaluate your content carefully.

Rather than focus on the number of links, try to think of hyperlinks as an essential navigation element. Ask questions: Does each link serve a purpose? Do header menus seem cluttered or overwhelming? Are you providing users with enough information to follow hyperlinks with confidence — and if not, how could you make improvements?

Avoid Accessibility Issues by Following WCAG

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide guidance for preventing common accessibility barriers when adding hyperlinks to your website. Some quick tips:

  • Provide accurate link text for every hyperlink. Don’t use the word "link" in your link text — most screen readers will read “link" when focusing on a hyperlink, so adding the word is redundant.
  • Provide a clear description of what the user can expect when following the link. If a hyperlink will open a new window or start a download, make sure the link text provides that information. 
  • Avoid vague link text like "more" or "click here."
  • Keep your link text concise. For example, writing "our blog, where we post articles about internet accessibility and related issues" is excessive; "blog" provides plenty of context for users.
  • When images contain hyperlinks, they must include accurate link text. In other words, don’t just describe the image: Describe the purpose of the hyperlink.

Finally, remember that website accessibility isn’t just about screen readers. Make sure your links meet WCAG color contrast requirements. Don’t rely on color alone to identify links; underline links or use another method to make them visually distinct from other text.

For more guidance, review our quick guide to accessible hyperlinks or get a free website analysis to see how your website fares against others in your industry.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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