Hand pain and links January 13, 2019 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I can’t be the only person on this site with hand pain. Carpal tunnel is pervasive, and lots of people have arthritis. For those of us who have hand pain, it hurts to click on a link. So I generally don’t go to links unless I know there’s something I want to see. Sometimes people link using a word like “this” or “here” with no other explanation. If someone, say, asks for muffin recipes and I want to contribute one, I have to click on the vague links to make sure I’m not repeating what that person said. And having to click on a link without knowing what it is is annoying even for people without hand pain. I’m guessing this is something many people don’t even think about. Fellow MeFites, I’d like to ask you to think about it. Please identify your mystery links.
posted by FencingGal to Etiquette/Policy at 6:56 AM (50 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, this is super important in web accessibility. If I can't tell what a link is supposed to be about without context, it isn't accessible. "here," "click here," and similar phrasing is right out.
posted by Alensin at 7:06 AM on January 13 [16 favorites]


Thank you for this reminder. I used to be much better about identifying links, but I've gotten lazier. I will do better!
posted by lazuli at 7:10 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


More descriptive link text is an easy change and I'm happy to do it.

Also, after reading your post, it occurs to me that if you're literally clicking links with a mouse (as opposed to, say, Vimium/Cvim/Tridactyl-style link hinting, or jumping from link to link with TAB) then it doesn't matter whether or not you have hand pain. Short links are going to be annoying just because the target for your cursor is smaller.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:47 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I primarily use Firefox, and when I move my mouse over a hyperlink (without clicking), I can see the url address in the bottom left corner of the screen - it also happens with Chrome, so I am wondering if your browser settings can be adjusted to provide this kind of preview to help eliminate the need to click on hypertext to get a sense of where it is pointing. However, link rot (as noted by LobsterMitten in the MetaTalk titled A relatively serious general-interest web community) is also an ongoing issue, and more description of where a link is pointing is also important to help maintain future access to the information.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:13 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Decontextualized links don't make you a bad person, but they are treasonous against the organizing principles of HTML.

I forget who's been doing it, but someone has been including tooltip-type summaries/notes inline with their text, which are very nice but also something I don't know how to do and might have "typing out the blockquote tags" friction preventing me from even trying. [This is not a pony request]
posted by rhizome at 8:51 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


> I forget who's been doing it, but someone has been including tooltip-type summaries/notes inline with their text [...]

I'm just a lazy script kiddie, so probably not me, but you can use the "abbr" tag to make simple tooltips. More details can be found here. The downside being the indication that a tooltip is available may not appear depending on how you're viewing the given website. I also don't know how easy something like this is to do/view for mobile users.

Here's what the two tooltips I used in this message look like:
Quote link: "<abbr title="rhizome commented:"><a href=https://metatalk.metafilter.com/25066/Hand-pain-and-links#1326985>></a></abbr>"

HTML site link: "<abbr title="This is a website that gives a brief description and example of the <abbr> HTML tag."><a href=https://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_abbr.asp>here</a></abbr>"

If someone has a simpler process for doing this, by all means please share it.
posted by Arson Lupine at 9:32 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Yeah, tooltips are clearly not a panacea for the reasons Arson Lupine mentions, but they're nice to include regardless.

To facilitate the use of tooltips on the site, is it feasible for MeFi to add an optional "tooltip" field on the "insert link" tool?
posted by duffell at 9:37 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of the extravagant days of the “DHTML” tooltips. And the term “DHTML”. (I believe that experiment was terminated when people started getting too cute with it.)
posted by silby at 10:12 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


when I move my mouse over a hyperlink (without clicking), I can see the url address in the bottom left corner of the screen
It's nice for people on computers, but many people are on phones and hovering is not nearly that simple.
posted by soelo at 10:58 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I also appreciate descriptive links because links break. Tell me the brand of product you’re linking to. Tell me the author and title of the poem you’re linking to. Tell me it’s a cartoon of a fish talking to a muffin.

Give me something I can go on in five years when I’m digging through ask looking up how to repair a plumbing problem or scramble an egg or fold a fitted sheet.

Accessibility benefits everyone, is why I’m saying.
posted by bilabial at 11:19 AM on January 13 [20 favorites]


To see where a link leads on mobile browsers, long-press the link.

Tooltips are nice in theory, but I really dislike them because (at least on mobile, Firefox) they make it so that long-pressing shows the tooltips instead of the link url, and I really don't like not having that information.
posted by trig at 11:20 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Yeah, don't depend on something like mouse hover either, if you can, because that presupposes that people have a mouse and can control where it goes. Link text is, at least, universal.
posted by Alensin at 11:30 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


This might be a good place to request a related pony I've had about Fanfare. I'd like to suggest that we make finding posts on Fanfare more accessible. I find that getting to content requires a LOT of link clicking.

For example, every time I watch a new film or show, I go to Fanfare to see if there's a post. Here's my process:

1. Click on Metafilter
2. Click on Fanfare
3. Click on Archives
4. Click on TV or Film, etc.
5. Click on the first letter of the title of the show.
6. If TV, scroll down to find the episode I'm on, click on the episode title

That's a lot of clicks! I haven't been able to find a better way. May I request at the very least we put the indexes at the top of Fanfare somewhere please? I would imagine the major use case for that subsite is people looking for something specific (searching), rather than seeing what's come up recently (browsing). Thanks!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:34 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


iamkimiam: 1. Click on Metafilter
2. Click on Fanfare


I did those steps and then I saw a great big search box on the right of the page, captioned 'Find a Show, Movie, Book, or Podcast'. Is that not showing up for you?

By the way, I don't really consider this pony related to the topic of the thread, to be honest.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:08 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Another reason to include very explicit text in links is that links expire. I would bet half the links to Ikea products are broken (I'm not sure when Ikea did whatever they did that broke everything, but I would guess that anything linked prior to, oh, 2017? is now broken).

A comment that says "we bought this and we love it!" is, sadly, useless to the community if the link breaks, whereas a comment that says "we have the InstantPot Duo" or "I bet you'll get a lot out of The Five Love Languages" or "I'll just drop this here: Detectorists" - with an explicit reference to the thing you're recommending - is a recommendation that can still be used in a search if the original link breaks.

(Edited because I didn't preview and it turns out I'm just seconding bilabial. Thanks, bilabial!)
posted by kristi at 12:14 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


I did those steps and then I saw a great big search box on the right of the page, captioned 'Find a Show, Movie, Book, or Podcast'. Is that not showing up for you?

Sorry, no, I don't see a search.

By the way, I don't really consider this pony related to the topic of the thread, to be honest.

That's fair. I agree, sorry to derail the thread. I have RSIs and hate unnecessary clicking, so reading your request (which I wholeheartedly support) made me immediately think about things that could be done on site-side to ease the problem too.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:46 PM on January 13


On mobile, the search is at the bottom of the page, accessed by the down arrow that moves you to the bottom of the page. So, one more click, then click in the box to type your search. Otherwise, the search is in the sidebar on the right, at the top.
posted by donnagirl at 12:58 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Thanks, donnagirl. I think now that I know where to go for search on both mobile and desktop it's just a matter of developing a new habit. Happy hands!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:14 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


the hover thing isn't accessible to everyone and sometimes, as with imdb links, it's completely worthless even if you can see it.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:14 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I also appreciate descriptive links because links break. Tell me the brand of product you’re linking to. Tell me the author and title of the poem you’re linking to. Tell me it’s a cartoon of a fish talking to a muffin.

Give me something I can go on in five years when I’m digging through ask looking up how to repair a plumbing problem or scramble an egg or fold a fitted sheet.

Accessibility benefits everyone, is why I’m saying.


Totally. This MeTa is a good reminder about this stuff, and I'll admit to sometimes being careless about contextual links, even though I know better.

In terms of nudging/reminding people about this, a pony request, maybe?

Under the "Please enter the site you'd like to link!" text that appears in the dialog box when you add a link in a comment or post, is it possible to add text to the effect of "Please make your link contextual - the text that's hyperlinked should describe what it's linking to, i.e., avoid 'click here' or 'here' as the text you're hyperlinking from," or something similar.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:42 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Is there in itself anything wrong with links that say 'click here' when there is an explanation about what you're going to find when you 'click here'? Does it need to be the hyperlinked text that describes the linked content, or is it also fine to do that elsewhere in the text?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:52 PM on January 13


Is there in itself anything wrong with links that say 'click here' when there is an explanation about what you're going to find when you 'click here'?

I think the key is to provide context, so there is information about where the link is pointing. The difficulty happens when there is no context at all. If there is an explanation about where 'click here' will lead, then there isn't a need to click on it to find out, and the problem of future link rot is reduced.
posted by Little Dawn at 2:15 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


My problem with “click here” is when that’s all there is. If the link is explained a little, I’ll know whether I want to click on it. And an explanation will also help with the problem of dead links, which others have pointed out.

Also if you just want to quickly look at the answers to a thread later, even if the links are still live, if there’s no explanation, you can’t tell by a quick read if three different people recommended vinegar and baking soda or if all of those suggestions are for different things.

I do seem stuck sometimes with linking to just one word, as my iPad makes me choose between selecting one word and selecting the entire text, with no option for selecting three or four words. If there’s a workaround for that, I’d love to hear about it, as meaty shoe puppet is right that it’s harder to place a cursor on one small word.
posted by FencingGal at 2:30 PM on January 13


when that happens i just give up and write out the whole a href link myself and enclose the words i want the link to be. i hate touchscreens with my whole entire being.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:40 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Selecting on the iPad seems to work if you select the last word in the phrase you want to link, then highlight backwards to the first word you want to link. If you try to select the first and highlight to the last, it does that annoying "select all" thing that makes me yell at the damn tablet.
posted by Lexica at 2:54 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Is there in itself anything wrong with links that say 'click here' when there is an explanation about what you're going to find when you 'click here'?

My understanding is that it's not great for people who read text with screen readers, many of whom might not be "clicking here" anyway, but rather might be tabbing and using arrow keys to move through site navigation. The accessibility best practice is to include more info in the link text. For example, "Go here to read more about how cartographers for the U.S. military inadvertently created a house of horrors in South Africa," rather than "To read more about how cartographers for the U.S. military inadvertently created a house of horrors in South Africa, click here."
posted by limeonaire at 3:56 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


My problem with “click here” is when that’s all there is.

That doesn't have to be the case. A little forethought and rewording and you can make sure the supporting information for the thing you're talking about is right where the text occurs. Read, click, learn...no muss, no question marks.
posted by rhizome at 6:36 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Is there in itself anything wrong with links that say 'click here' when there is an explanation about what you're going to find when you 'click here'?

My understanding from library school is that some people who are just looking for the links using screen readers will skim the link text and not the surrounding text so it's better to include the words in the link and not really much of a reason not to. Better for SEO, too.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:08 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


rhizome, was your comment intended to be ironic? Because I'm reading it on mobile and not getting anything beyond a long-hold link preview. If there was some subtle coding you did, it's not registering.
posted by Lexica at 7:43 PM on January 13


No, they're just regular links to articles. I can't see anything weird about the URLs, so I'm not sure what's happening.
posted by rhizome at 8:09 PM on January 13


You make a great point here FencingGal, I do have hand pain and it would totally help me to have to do less clicking, but I hadn't put it together that giving links proper context would save others that pain too, so thanks for that.

Another thought I've had in this vein - when people link to a particular tweet, I wish they would just copy the text of the tweet and have that text be the link - since tweets are so short, it can be frustrating to have to jump out of the thread you are reading to wait for twitter to load just for one sentence. I do like having the link available though, so the writer of the tweet gets credit, and you can choose to see what else they have to say if you like.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:38 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I’d like the autocomplete search for Fanfare to be available on the phone theme; in order to find the discussion for the movie "The Favorite," not, say, favorites in general, it was simplest to switch over to the desktop theme.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:56 AM on January 14


What I'm getting from this thread is that while stuff like hoverable URLs and tooltips and descriptions lf the link that aren't actually themselves the link are useful and good and help some people some of the time, what helps everyone all of the time is having the text of the link itself be descriptive of where the link is going. You know, like FencingGal and Alensin said right at the beginning of the thread. It's also pretty simple and easy to do, so let's try to just do it, eh?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:37 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Plus, y'know, I have hands that work withoutnpain and eyes that have no trouble reading a screen, but descriptive links are the gold standard for me as well. Just because I'm reading MetaFilter doesn't mean I'm engaging with it in a deep and purposeful way—frequently I'm just skimming, because I'm bored in line at the grocery store, or that's just the mood I'm in. Maybe like half the time I'm here, I'm just idly grazing.

If that's what I'm doing, I'm not going to stop and long-press on your mystery link or really do any work whatsoever to see where it goes—if a link is mysterious, I'm just going to scroll on by to something more obviously interesting. I'm sure I'm not the only person who often engages with MeFi on that level. So if you care about having people engage with what you're posting rather than just gliding by with glazed eyes, make your links descriptive.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:56 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Just popping in to say that this is an issue that hadn't occurred to me, and I'll make an effort to modify my behavior going forward. Thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:15 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Yes, thanks for this post. This is one of those things that I feel strongly about, yet I suspect I often forget to follow my own best practices, so an occasional reminder is greatly appreciated.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:17 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Like shapes's comment, just above, I used to try to be clever and use "click here" for link text, but I will change my ways in the future and leave useful facts (instead of just clues) about what I am linking to.

This is good feedback for all of us. I like this pony!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:22 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


To see where a link leads on mobile browsers, long-press the link.

This does not at all address the issue of the OP’s. If you have hand pain from tapping a link, you’re going to have more hand pain from long-pressing it.

I exclusively use mobile and have tendinitis and +1 the request for contextual links that don’t require any additional hand action.
posted by greermahoney at 8:11 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: a cartoon of a fish talking to a muffin.
posted by nickmark at 8:11 AM on January 14


Pronoiac - It is possible that UK vs US spelling is the problem? The movie title is spelled with a "U": The Favourite (2018)
posted by soelo at 9:08 AM on January 14


It's also important to remember that there are clear standards for this. W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 spell it out:

Guideline 2.4 Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

[...]

2.4.4 Link Purpose (In Context): The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.


Since the situations we're talking about here relates to how people are creating links in Metafilter posts and comments (rather than, say, building website navigation or software development), this a good, very short summary of how and why descriptive links are important (and what they should look like) that might be helpful if this is a new concept to people or if people are unclear about it. Here's the most relevant section of that summary:

Writing Link Text

In most cases, the proper link text is probably already in your content, and it just needs to be emphasized as the link. Extraneous words used as links such as; "click here" or "more" should be avoided in most situations, although if you dive into the WCAG guidelines on descriptive links you'll learn a lot more.

Use this: Learning what to write as proper link text can be confusing, but you can learn more by visiting Descriptive Links Accessibility.

Instead of: Learning what to write as proper link text can be confusing, but to learn more click here.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:30 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Tooltips are nice in theory, but I really dislike them because (at least on mobile, Firefox) they make it so that long-pressing shows the tooltips instead of the link url, and I really don't like not having that information.

I'm seeing exactly the opposite (Firefox Mobile 64.0.2, on Android Oreo): long-pressing on a link with a tooltip still gives me the link URL and the usual options, and there doesn't seem to be a way to view the tooltip text at all.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:02 AM on January 14


I hadn't considered this as a problem at all, I'm glad it's been called to my attention.
I've definitely been guilty of this several times, but most notably when I've talked about something, and then I have a sentence like "Here are some of my sources" where I make each word a different link in order to cut down on the space of my comment.
I'll try and cut that out, but I do sometimes feel like I need to provide a range of sources in order to meet some people's stringent standards, especially when it's something that I feel MeFi doesn't agree with and I want to avoid "but that's just one person's opinion" as a rebuttal.
Is it ok if I've made generally clear what the links are going to be about but don't signpost them individually, or is that still a problem? Particularly if they're a bunch of Twitter takes, where I don't feel they're necessarily all that valuable individually but am arguing that an opinion is alive and somewhat widespread, and want to show examples.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 12:38 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I find it problematic when people have a sentence and make each word a different link, since it's not immediately evident how many links there are - you have to click on them to tell (if hovering works, let me point out that moving the cursor to hover also hurts when you have hand pain). In terms of whether or not to click when you have multiple sources, it makes a difference to me what sources you're using. If you just say "some sources," I don't know if the link is going to go to the USDA, The Lancet, or an anti-vaxxer website. So yeah, ideally, I'd want something more specific.

With the Twitter takes, if they're just by random people, maybe you could number them to indicate that's what they are. But I'm just not going to click on Twitter takes, so maybe someone else should answer this one. I like 5_13's suggestion above to cut and paste text from Twitter (with a link to give credit) so you don't have to wait for Twitter to load to read something really short.
posted by FencingGal at 7:13 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


I find it problematic when people have a sentence and make each word a different link, since it's not immediately evident how many links there are

I hate this EXTREMELY, it is very bad. Even on desktop when I can easily hover it's still incredibly annoying.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:52 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


More details can be found here.
I saw what you did there.
posted by unliteral at 3:27 PM on January 15


I’ve never realized how inaccessible this is. Thank you for the post, and thank you to mandolin conspiracy for the links. My brain works best with really clear standards like that, so it’s very helpful!
posted by itsamermaid at 4:39 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Suggestion / pony request: give the the 'add link' widget the ability to add optional hover text.

This is not perfect (the issues regarding mobile are valid), but for people on mouse-based devices and I believe using some screenreaders, they could get a preview / additional data about the link before clicking on it.

I think it's a misuse of HTML to require every link's text to be a description of the content. That's not how hypertext is supposed to work. The whole point of hypertext is that you can linkify any text you want, in a context-dependent way, to any other WWW resource. What OP is asking for is something orthogonal to the text of a link; it's a preview (more or less) of the content that they're going to get to when they click on it. Hover text seems like the best place for this to go.

I've seen a lot of creative uses of links that are funny/ironic/subversive based on the juxtaposition of the link's text and destination. It would be a mistake, IMO, to push people to make their links' text always descriptive. But, lacking a widely-recognized standard (something like the alt tag on images) for additional data on links, giving people the ability to add hover text seems like a good compromise.

Just my two cents.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:55 AM on January 16 [3 favorites]


in order to find the discussion for the movie "The Favorite,"

Although, if you did that you probably wouldn't find the movie The Favourite, which is most likely what you're looking for. Unless you want to discuss The Favorite, in which case ignore me.
posted by Grangousier at 2:10 AM on January 19


soelo and Grangousier, yes, Favorite vs Favourite got in the way. I didn't mention it as it felt more gear than punchline.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:30 AM on January 19


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