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Common Accessibility Failures and How to Avoid Them: Empty Links


15 May 2024 | Marta Rydel, Kuba Wal

An “empty” link is a link to further content that does not indicate its purpose clearly to the user. This is most likely by omitting descriptive text within the link text or graphic to which the link is attached. This is especially important to users with motion-based or cognitive disabilities who benefit most of all from clear and optimized navigation of a site.  


Empty Links, or “Link Purpose”, As Defined by WCAG 2.2. 

According to the WebAIM Million Report, 2024, 44% of Home Pages failed a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 audit due to Empty Links or a lack of Link Purpose.  

WCAG 2.2 is a standard accessibility framework published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet.  

The success criterion can be found here and is outlined as follows:  

Level: A  

2.4.4 Link Purpose 

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. 


Why Does It Matter?  

Links that have a clear purpose defined by text or alt-text (if the link is attached to an image) make their destination or purpose clear to the user. If no such clarity exists, the function of the link will be unclear to some users and result in frustration and incorrect navigation.  

Individuals with mobility disabilities may be especially impacted by unnecessary navigation through badly labeled or unlabeled links or having to navigate back from content they weren’t interested in accessing. Similarly, users with cognitive disabilities may find themselves disoriented by an unclear navigation structure, and users with visual disabilities will find navigating easier with a defined link purpose for all links (in fact, this benefits everyone)!  

Accounting for these accessibility needs benefits a wide range of users, businesses, and organizations. As a result, there will be fewer complaints from users struggling to navigate their services and greater business success.  


How Do I Fix It?  

To ensure the purpose of links is clear and to avoid empty links, make sure that clear, descriptive text is added to text links and as alt-text for non-text media links. A simple example is as follows: 


<a href=”https://www.gravity9.com"> gravity9 homepage </a> 


Why Is This Important? 

It’s estimated that 16% of the world’s population – 1 in 6 of us – have a significant disability. In a world where technology continues to play a critical role in our daily lives, our work, our learning, and many of the businesses and services we need, it’s vital to ensure that everyone’s needs are catered for wherever possible. For any individual business, these statistics and the importance of what they represent cannot be overstated.  

Thursday, 16th May 2024, marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day, an annual event for institutions and technology companies to draw attention to the vital goal of ensuring digital assets—from websites to photos, video, audio, and social media—are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities that may impair their sight, hearing, or mobility.  

As a specialist in application modernization and development, gravity9 is committed to this inclusivity. Here, we’re looking at some key findings of the annual WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) report, which studies 1,000,000 home pages to assess their accessibility and highlight any shortfalls. We’ll be examining why they matter and what you can do to ensure that you’re not letting your customers or your business down by failing to address these vital areas. 


More in This Series

Here’s the full set of articles in this series: Common Accessibility Failures and How to Avoid Them.

  1. Low Contrast Text
  2. Missing Alt Text
  3. Missing Form Labels
  4. Empty Links
  5. Empty Buttons
  6. Missing Document Language