Nablopomo – Day 17 – Skip links

I’m a definite proponent of ‘skip links’ with any site I build. In addition to being an essential part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – 2.4.1. – Bypass Blocks, I firmly believe that skip links are valuable for a more effective user experience. I just do mine a little differently.

My site only has 2 skip links:

Skip to Content
Takes you directly to the content of the current page that you’re on.
Skip to Search
Takes you directly to the search field.

You may have noticed that I do not have a ‘Skip to Navigation’ link.

Why? Quite simply, I feel that skipping to static information doesn’t make the best experience.

This is not to say that the navigation isn’t important. It’s the key to any site, obviously. But for me, this site’s navigation shouldn’t be changing on a regular basis.

It’s not about the importance of content. It’s about accessing dynamic content and the tools associated with it.

Of course, there can be exceptions based on the type of site you have. Perhaps if you have navigation elements that are dynamic in nature (like a product based site that filters down to a specific type of product), then you’d want to reconsider how it’s treated.

Regardless, the key is to assure that the user is having the best and most effective experience possible. For my site, I feel this works best.

2 Replies to “Nablopomo – Day 17 – Skip links”

  1. Now while I like the fact that you’re providing skip links to the search. Don’t you think that to provide a consistent experience for people who aren’t challenged with the people who are that you should at least make them aware of the nav? Which is really an argument to have skip links to the navigation.

  2. Hey Ritchie. Good question.

    I did struggle with this decision for a bit. I definitely want to attemp on having a consistent experience for all users. However, with the different challenges that people have and the nature of the current user agents, it’s definitely a tall order. I try my best.

    As a bit of an aside from this, there’s a whole section I was going to mention in this post about ARIA landmarks. (It got way too technical though and was straying from what I was trying to focus on.)

    Long story short, I currently use this in my template:

    <nav role="navigation">

    With the current version of JAWS, it supports this landmark (not the nav element but the role attribute) and will jump to the content much like a skip link. JAWS will identify all ARIA landmarks in the document. So for my template, it would annouce: banner, navigation, contentinfo (twitter, delcious links, etc.), search, main, complimentary, contentinfo (footer).

    For people with mobility challenges and who use a keyboard to navigate, they can still reach the navigation, based on the order of the template structure.

    For the people without challenges, it’s a matter of simply having my navigation stand out from a visual design perspective. Basically, I’m following the best practices of contrast / brightness / layout, as well as implementing proper hover effects on the anchors. I feel that the navigation stands out effectively.

    Based on that, I believe that I’m putting a good effort towards a better user experience. As I said above, it’s tough to make it completely consistent with different challenges and user agents, but at least I’m making it accessible.

    Now, getting back to the article, the intention is to focus more on the skipping to dynamic content, rather than static content. But, you do bring up a good point and have me thinking about this again. (Which you are always good at 😉 Perhaps a follow-up is in order to focus more on the accessibility aspect. For this, I wanted to focus more on the nature of the content in relation to the skip links themselves.

    But of course, I’d welcome any addition thoughts 🙂

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