I Don’t Want to Read More or Click Here

I feel so overwhelmed when I encounter websites that use the phrase “Read more” or “Click here”. The overwhelming feeling comes from realizing how many people need to get rid of this bad habit. It’s the wrong thing to do. This bad practice is so ubiquitous that most people probably concludes that it is OK. But it isn’t!

My latest encounter was on the website for the museum of Copenhagen. The Danish version of the site is the same.

Imagine that you had a list of only the links from a web page. I mean a list of the phrases displayed with a link, not the actual hyperlink. The list on a site that uses “Read more” would be as follows:

  1. Read more
  2. Read more
  3. Read more
  4. Read more

I could continue. It’s meaningless, right? That is what anyone who reads a website with a screen reader encounters. Screen readers are used by people who are blind, have low vision, or have physical disabilities. Assistive technology makes reading a website so much easier. Assistive technology also makes bad practices like “Read more” glaringly obvious. The failure lies with the content producer, not the technology!

When I look at the museum site, I realized that the designer may want to have only two words for the link to the continuation of the article. The words “Read more” are like a graphic element in their appearance. They are under a line used as a graphical element. I enjoy good graphics, but using “Read more” is bad when it leaves a screen reader user stranded with a list of useless information. That list is a quick navigation option in screen readers, but with useless information, the option becomes useless.

Let’s step away from design for a moment and think content. Isn’t “Read more” a content element? You are supposed to be lured into reading more by those two words. Could the content writer add a tiny bit more to improve the value? Like this:

  1. Read more about Education
  2. Read more about our Picture Archive
  3. Read more about meeting the museum around town

You get the parallelism that someone might want, but you also get more information about the link that might be more enticing. This example is the first thing that came to mind. The content writer would look at the complete text, of course, and perhaps write a completely different set of links.

Those who can see the “Read more” text on the page may also be happier to have a longer text. On the museum site, these links are orange and stand out. In the scenario for my first list example, the links may be just as useless for a sighted person skimming the page and noticing the orange. The second list example might provide just enough information to be more enticing.

I did wonder whether the “Read more” text was built into the website templates somehow. To which I would reply – lazy! Not good!

Everything I have written applies to the phrase “Click here”. It is just as galling as “Read more”. I suggest you visit the WebAIM website for an excellent article about the bad practice of using useless link phrases like “Read more” and “Click here”. The Education and Outreach group at W3C have what I think is a great article for understanding how people with disabilities use the web. It can help you avoid lazy paths to web content. Such laziness won’t get me to read more or click here!

32 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Read More or Click Here”

  1. You might also be interested in what the W3C have to say about the use of “Click Here”.

    When calling the user to action, use brief but meaningful link text that:

    provides some information when read out of context
    explains what the link offers
    doesn’t talk about mechanics
    is not a verb phrase

  2. Thanks for the link to the W3C. I have no idea why I forgot to include it in my post. I guess I thought it was enough to throw WebAIM and EOWG of W3C at people for the first round. They squeal about dropping these lazy links as it is.

  3. I agree with you about “click here” but could you make an exception for “read more” please as I use it on my blog? It’s built into the WordPress theme I use when I use the “more” tag – which i use to get the first paragraphs of several posts on one page.
    I need you to allow this, because I don’t want to think I’m making you angry!!!

  4. You’ll never make me angry, David. 🙂 I did think that some designs might have that built-in and you confirm the idea. I want to raise awareness so developers and designers don’t make that mistake in future. I only checked my own site after posting and dreaded finding that I was a sinner. Fortunately, this blog theme was designed with accessibility in mind, so links are meaningful. They also make sense to sighted people: “continue reading blablabla”, where blablabla is my fascinating title.

    If you are feeling adventurous, you can fiddle with the code to the theme and make something like I have. Fiddling with the code is something I get around to doing about once a year so I will never rush anyone else! (I finally remembered to fix a broken contact form today months after it broke….)

  5. well; wcag 2 says u don’t need to make links meaningful but the whole surrounding crap contributes to making it readable. Essentially, 1 more example of wcag 2’s failings. But have no fear, w3c, microsoft, google and adobe have accessibility at heart

  6. Yes, Click Here and Read More aren’t good for accessibility, but they also aren’t good for SEO. Your page rank is improved when you have meaningful text in your links. Great post, Karen.

  7. You can always make use of the TITLE element in the A tag, right? Wouldn’t something like this:


    meet all needs? Screen readers would pick up on the TITLE of the link, thereby giving context

  8. I would add to that: A lot of trendy blogs these days have a habit of linking almost random words, where the link makes sense when you read it in the context of the paragraph, but makes no sense on its own. For instance if you went to the top article on Daily Kos at this moment, you would get these links with useless text:

    * wrote
    * said
    * making it clear

    The only link that really indicates what it contains is

    * post-election meeting

    … Maybe I should write a DKos blog about it…

  9. @Rick – nice idea, but according to this great article by Ian Pouncey, I think not:
    In other words, if you’re saying “read more about education” in the TITLE, why not replace your link text of “read more…” with that phrase from the TITLE and drop the use of TITLE. As it stands, there is a slight redundancy. As Ian Pouncey points out in his article, the user agent might also need some configuration, so someone’s configuration might be to not read TITLE.
    You’re right in pointing out TITLE; it just needs to be used judiciously.

    @Robin – thanks for the SEO reminder – always a good angle to pull out for those who still don’t get accessibility. 🙂

    @Catherine – thanks for the tip about editing the More tag in WordPress.

    @Jeffrey – visually, the context for a link may make link text understandable, but if all links are in a stand-alone list of links, they are not understandable, which is my point! WCAG2 comes from WAI, a group of people who definitely have accessibility at heart. 🙂

  10. @rick – Thoughtful idea, but typically screen readers do not read title text by default and for good reason. Also, let’s not make those with visual (not blind), motor, or cognitive impairments be forced to hover over the link and then try to figure out the title text. Another thing to note is that title text by default does not change size on browser page zoom or browser text zoom. So many reasons to make links meaningful and not many to oppose.

    Solid post Karen.

  11. @Vincent – Blush! Thanks. And thanks for additional thoughts on the idea from Rick. Amazing how darn tricky these things can be. Personally, I think this comes back to a thought in a different post about the partnership between content strategy and accessibility; if we truly care about our content, we’ll make sure every syllable is meaningful. That would imply that meaningless links are impossible for a good content stratgist!
    That different post is at: http://www.firehead.net/technical-communications/content-strategy-and-accessibility-%E2%80%93-a-natural-partnership

  12. Thanks for this very timely reminder! I KNOW this stuff and haven’t been guilty of the “Read More” for a long time, and I don’t think I ever wrote “Click here”. But I’m currently in the midst of writing copy for a client and I’ve been trying to fool myself that “See details” is somehow better. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t, but the tiny voice of my conscience kept getting overwhelmed by the much more forceful voice of… yes.. laziness. And I call myself a content strategist! Sheesh.

    That’s ok, there’s still time for me to rewrite my links to make them accessible, seo friendly, and meaningful before I hand them to my client. Thanks again… we all need a little B-slap now and again.

    – Kathy

  13. Nice read, and yes, I had the default “continue reading” from wordpress.

    I think I read something about this with spam filters as well. If there was a “click here” or “read more” link in the mail, it might be considered spam by some filters.

    After reading your post I fixed my blog right away. Thanks for the heads up.

  14. @Jimmi – Interesting point about the links in mails possibly considered as spam. Thanks for the tip. And happy to help. It’s fixing the web little by little.

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