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The Peril of In-Page Links

Linking to other pages on your site is essential, but if you're using in-page links, you may want to re-think your strategy for user-friendliness reasons.

The Problem:

In-page links are links within your content (the "text" part of your page) that lead to other pages on your web site. The problem with using in-page links is that they can make the site look disorganized and "mysterious," which means users may assume that the only way to access other pages on the site is to wade through the content and find the links there.

In fact, by using in-page links, you are pretty much forcing your visitors to learn how to get to each page and remember that path whenever they return. This can be very frustrating for your visitors and could even deter them from returning to your site.

Plus, in-page links can disrupt content flow; if users click on a link, they will miss out on the rest of the content on that page — and that's something you definitely want to avoid. You have valuable content on each of your pages, so the last thing you want to do is prevent them from looking at all of it.

The Solution:

At Back2Front, we ensure users can navigate through your web site without getting lost by creating a very clearly labeled, easy-to-use main menu. Here's our rule of thumb: if there is content on your site that you have already decided deserves a separate page, we make sure we give it a place on your menu bar. With no in-page links, there is a single path through the site that is clear and easy to use, so visitors will naturally use it: no frustration, learning or searching required.

When In-Page Links are OK:

That said, you may now be wondering, "Is there any appropriate use for in-page links?" Actually, there is. Back2Front recommends using in-page links for linking to other web sites that are not your own. They are also useful for linking to an email address (this will cause the visitor's email program to launch so they can send you an email), or to a media file such as video or audio (which will launch in a media player). You can also use in-page links for PDFs, Word documents or any other content or files that are not HTML web pages.

In all of these cases, the links should be clearly labeled (e.g., "Download our PDF report," rather than "Download our report,") so your visitors know beforehand what they will be opening.

You can also use in-page links if you have a long page with subsections and you want users to be able to skip down to the content they want to view. In this case, the in-page links are placed only on that same page, and usually at the top.

One final note: If you do use in-page links, make sure you do not put these links on your menu bar. The menu is only to be used for links to HTML pages found on the rest of your site.