Understanding Success Criterion 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In Context)

Success Criterion 2.4.4 Link Purpose (In Context) (Level A): 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.


The intent of this Success Criterion is to help users understand the purpose of each link so they can decide whether they want to follow the link. Whenever possible, provide link text that identifies the purpose of the link without needing additional context. Assistive technology has the ability to provide users with a list of links that are on the Web page. Link text that is as meaningful as possible will aid users who want to choose from this list of links. Meaningful link text also helps those who wish to tab from link to link. Meaningful links help users choose which links to follow without requiring complicated strategies to understand the page.

The text of, or associated with, the link is intended to describe the purpose of the link. In cases where the link takes one to a document or a web application, the name of the document or web application would be sufficient to describe the purpose of the link (which is to take you to the document or web application). Note that it is not required to use the name of the document or web application; other things may also describe the purpose of the link.

Success Criterion 2.4.2 deals with the titles of pages. Here also, the name of a document or web application being presented on the page would be sufficient to describe the purpose of the page. Having the link and the title agree, or be very similar, is good practice and provides continuity between the link 'clicked on' and the web page that the user lands on.

In some situations, authors may want to provide part of the description of the link in logically related text that provides the context for the link. In this case the user should be able to identify the purpose of the link without moving focus from the link. In other words, they can arrive on a link and find out more about it without losing their place. This can be achieved by putting the description of the link in the same sentence, paragraph, list item, or table cell as the link, or in the table header cell for a link in a data table, because these are directly associated with the link itself. Alternatively, authors may choose to use an ARIA technique to associate additional text on the page with the link.

This context will be most usable if it precedes the link. (For instance, if you must use ambiguous link text, it is better to put it at the end of the sentence that describes its destination, rather than putting the ambiguous phrase at the beginning of the sentence.) If the description follows the link, there can be confusion and difficulty for screen reader users who are reading through the page in order (top to bottom).

It is a best practice for links with the same destination to have consistent text (and this is a requirement per Success Criterion 3.2.4 for pages in a set). It is also a best practice for links with different purposes and destinations to have different link text.

A best practice for links to conforming alternate versions is to ensure that the link text to the conforming alternate version indicates in link text that the page it leads to represents the more accessible version. This information may also be provided in text - the goal is to ensure that the end user knows what the purpose of the link is.

The Success Criterion includes an exception for links for which the purpose of the link cannot be determined from the information on the Web page. In this situation, the person with the disability is not at a disadvantage; there is no additional context available to understand the link purpose. However, whatever amount of context is available on the Web page that can be used to interpret the purpose of the link must be made available in the link text or programmatically associated with the link to satisfy the Success Criterion.


There may be situations where the purpose of the link is is supposed to be unknown or obscured. For instance, a game may have links identified only as door #1, door #2, and door #3. This link text would be sufficient because the purpose of the links is to create suspense for all users.

See also 2.4.9: Link Purpose (Link Only).



Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only, no endorsement implied.


Each numbered item in this section represents a technique or combination of techniques that the WCAG Working Group deems sufficient for meeting this Success Criterion. However, it is not necessary to use these particular techniques. For information on using other techniques, see Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria, particularly the "Other Techniques" section.

Sufficient Techniques

  1. G91: Providing link text that describes the purpose of a link
  2. H30: Providing link text that describes the purpose of a link for anchor elements
  3. H24: Providing text alternatives for the area elements of image maps
  4. FLASH27: Providing button labels that describe the purpose of a button
  5. Allowing the user to choose short or long link text using one of the techniques below:

  6. G53: Identifying the purpose of a link using link text combined with the text of the enclosing sentence
  7. Providing a supplemental description of the purpose of a link using one of the following techniques:

  8. Identifying the purpose of a link using link text combined with programmatically determined link context using one of the following techniques:

  9. G91: Providing link text that describes the purpose of a link AND Semantically indicating links using one of the following techniques:

Advisory Techniques

Although not required for conformance, the following additional techniques should be considered in order to make content more accessible. Not all techniques can be used or would be effective in all situations.


The following are common mistakes that are considered failures of this Success Criterion by the WCAG Working Group.

Key Terms

ambiguous to users in general

the purpose cannot be determined from the link and all information of the Web page presented to the user simultaneously with the link (i.e., readers without disabilities would not know what a link would do until they activated it)

The word guava in the following sentence "One of the notable exports is guava" is a link. The link could lead to a definition of guava, a chart listing the quantity of guava exported or a photograph of people harvesting guava. Until the link is activated, all readers are unsure and the person with a disability is not at any disadvantage.

conforming alternate version

version that

  1. conforms at the designated level, and
  2. provides all of the same information and functionality in the same human language, and
  3. is as up to date as the non-conforming content, and
  4. for which at least one of the following is true:

    1. the conforming version can be reached from the non-conforming page via an accessibility-supported mechanism, or
    2. the non-conforming version can only be reached from the conforming version, or
    3. the non-conforming version can only be reached from a conforming page that also provides a mechanism to reach the conforming version

In this definition, "can only be reached" means that there is some mechanism, such as a conditional redirect, that prevents a user from "reaching" (loading) the non-conforming page unless the user had just come from the conforming version.


The alternate version does not need to be matched page for page with the original (e.g., the conforming alternate version may consist of multiple pages).


If multiple language versions are available, then conforming alternate versions are required for each language offered.


Alternate versions may be provided to accommodate different technology environments or user groups. Each version should be as conformant as possible. One version would need to be fully conformant in order to meet conformance requirement 1.


The conforming alternative version does not need to reside within the scope of conformance, or even on the same Web site, as long as it is as freely available as the non-conforming version.


Alternate versions should not be confused with supplementary content, which support the original page and enhance comprehension.


Setting user preferences within the content to produce a conforming version is an acceptable mechanism for reaching another version as long as the method used to set the preferences is accessibility supported.

See Understanding Conforming Alternate Versions

nature of the result obtained by activating a hyperlink

additional information that can be programmatically determined from relationships with a link, combined with the link text, and presented to users in different modalities

In HTML, information that is programmatically determinable from a link in English includes text that is in the same paragraph, list, or table cell as the link or in a table header cell that is associated with the table cell that contains the link.


Since screen readers interpret punctuation, they can also provide the context from the current sentence, when the focus is on a link in that sentence.