Adding links to content, making them accessible and our external linking policy.

Using links in content

Don’t duplicate information. If it exists elsewhere on our website or can be better supplied by an organisation outside government, link to it instead.

Writing link text

When writing a link, make it descriptive and front-load it with relevant terms instead of using something generic like ‘click here’ or ‘more’.

This is because generic links don’t make sense out of context or tell users where a link will take them.

They’re also not accessible for visually impaired people using screen readers, who might use links to navigate a page.

Links help people scan content so don’t swamp them with too many or link to the same tool or web page throughout your document. You should always link to online services first, offering offline alternatives afterwards (where possible).

Formatting links

You can add links anywhere in body text.

But you must not add links in titles or subheadings.

Links to:

  • internal pages or content should be in the ‘existing window’
  • external websites and documents should be in a ‘new window’

External linking policy

We should link externally where doing so helps meet a clear user need.

This guidance:

  • lists the various types of external links
  • describes some of the general risks and outlines what we’ll do to mitigate them
  • lists the principles to be considered before adding an external link
  • provides a checklist of considerations
  • describes the process by which new external links can be added

Guiding principle

Where user needs on our website are better met by third parties, we should consider linking to them and always seek to avoid unnecessary duplication.

Whether it’s a charity website offering information or a third party tool to run a survey or gather analytics, we will consider linking from to external sites and services if we believe they will meet the user need and help them to complete their task.

Risks

In order to ensure that we continue to build users’ trust in our website, there are several risks to consider when adding links to external sites, and principles that should always apply when linking externally.

1. Is it clear to users that they’re leaving our website?

Our website relies on users’ trust in order to perform our role.

This means:

  1. when pointing users towards third party services, we need to be clear that users are leaving our Bromley MyLife website
  2. as part of the ongoing user testing of our website, we will continue to test that users are clear and confident about when they are on our website and when they are being taken elsewhere

2. Changing external content

By linking to external sites in order to meet a user need, we open ourselves to the risk that those sites will change and our link is no longer useful.

By linking to things which can change outside of our control, there’s a possibility of us accidentally providing misleading information to people, which could cause frustration and stress for our users.

Content on third party sites to which we link might be moved and redirected, removed or shut down completely. We can automatically test for these scenarios, and will regularly review missing, broken and redirected external links.

Content on third party sites might be changed substantially so that it no longer meets the original user need, taken over by someone who provides a quite different type of content, or a third party site might substantially change its approach to privacy, cookies, mobile or accessibility.

These scenarios are much harder to detect automatically, so in addition to taking feedback from users, we must regularly revisit and review the success of external link to ensure that the intended user need is still being met by an external link.

3. Commercial sites

Recognising that third parties will use the provision of information as a route to selling a service (whether via advertising, consultancy or other services, or establishing a market), our approach must be impartial and even handed.

We will also need to take care around perceived endorsement of specific private sector suppliers.

We will need to ensure that relevant external links to third parties do not act as an unfair endorsement of 1 specific site, for example.

Inclusion or exclusion of specific links must be based on the principles and policies outlined in this Manual, and we have a disclaimer regarding external linking on the Bromley MyLife website.

Considerations

We have a checklist of issues to consider when assessing external links:

  1. does the link help meet a clear user need?
  2. does the external site have clear privacy and cookie policies?
  3. are we being even handed and impartial?
  4. do other providers deliver a similar set of information, and if so why would we choose one over another?
  5. is the external content free to access?
  6. is the ownership of the external site clear?
  7. does the site work on mobile devices?
  8. would the site meet our accessibility standards?

Impartiality

Our decisions about who to link to are going to be scrutinised and we should be careful to choose the sites we link to and the tools we use impartially.

We must never include a link in return for cash, services or any other consideration in kind, including requests for reciprocal linking.

We should be prepared to explain the suitability of any third-parties chosen, eg where we’d be seen to be favouring one commercial provider over another.