The title attribute of a hyperlink allows for a short description of the destination page to be displayed under the cursor. It helps the user get a hint of the linked page’s content without the loading time associated with Snapshot-like plugins (used on this blog).
Most of us would look at the browser’s status bar, but it can be difficult for regular users to determine whether a link is safe for work or if leads to any interesting content. For all the value the attribute adds to user experience, it takes an awful lot of time for a journalist to fill in all the fields. 30 seconds per link, 10 links per article and that’s 5 additional minutes per story.
Asked by email, French usability guru Fred Cavazza hesitates but admits that for all its benefits, titling every link requires some courage.
Wikipedia (picture) makes an excellent use of the title attribute. In mainstream media, very few articles have links and even fewer display a title. When they do, it’s automated and only includes the linked text (on nytimes.com and chicagotribune.com, for instance), adding little value.
Do you title your links? Do you have a plugin that automates the process? Do you think it’s something news organizations should focus on?