The ‘title’ link attribute: is it worth it?

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.

There’s no evidence that the ‘title’ attribute improves SEO, and some even say that it messes up the programs used by users with disabilities.

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?

by Nicolas Kayser-Bril

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10 thoughts on “The ‘title’ link attribute: is it worth it?

  1. Murray Dick

    Hi Nicolas,

    I’m no expert on this – so I’ll pose my thought as a question:

    Aren’t link attributes also used as a means of accessibility for the visually impaired, who use screen reading software to get through the content on a page?

    If so (and I confess I don’t know), then you stand both to potentially scupper your compliance, but might also be missing out on a significant online audience – up to 10% of your potential audience, according to this page:

    http://www.different.com.au/publications/200409accessibility.asp

    Best,

    Murray

    Reply
    1. sam

      i am also agreed with you.Professor Dr.Gopal Paudyal’s book Journalism for Journalist is the best i ever found simple and vast too.

      Reply
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