Skip links: the saga continues

This article was written in 2005. For up-to-date advice on skip links please refer to the latest article on our [RPress] site.

Also see Skip links: Chrome, Safari and Added WAI-ARIA for our 2009 thoughts on skip links.

Some recent user testing of ours has suggested some ways to further improve the way we implement skip links.

Unlike many others, our recommended method of implementing skip links ensures that all keyboard users ‘see’ the skip link, as it appears visually on screen when a user tabs to it, and is of course read out by screen readers. The problem is this — although they find it, many web users simply do not understand what a skip link does, let alone how to use one.

Our user testing suggests that (as ever) clearer instruction is the way forward, at least until users get more familiar with skip links.

Example: Instead of the text of the link reading Skip to Main Content, have it read Skip to Main Content — press enter to activate.

Having enticed the user into pressing enter and trying the skip link out, the next step is to ensure that the user knows what has happened to their keyboard focus. A previous suggestion of using the text Bookmark: Main Content can cause some confusion, with users thinking that pressing enter would bookmark the page. So, we now suggest we go for something a little more descriptive:

Example: Instead of using the word Bookmark, have the target of the skip link read Start of main content.

We will be trying this out over the next few months and let you know any feedback we get, in the meantime any comments are welcome!