Links enrich the content of any website and users find them valuable, especially when set in context. We recommend that links are provided on the page itself, rather than on a separate 'Useful links' page.
How to link
- Make sure your links are relevant to the copy they follow.
- Ensure that the actual text of the link would make sense if taken out of the context of the preceding copy.
- Make sure that links are easily recognisable and consistent throughout the site
- Do not use different colours for each section of a website. Consider following the established convention of highlighting them in blue, underlined text and reserve this style just for links.
- Check regularly for broken links and ensure that links go to the expected page or site.
- Make sure the site has an easy-to-use way for users to report link problems.
- Links should describe the destination and make sense when read out of context. Therefore, avoid the use of ‘click here’, for example.
Where to link
All NHS sites should link to nhs.uk and NHS Direct Online (www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk) from the home page. If you wish to obtain a copy of the NHS Direct logo, please contact your local NHS Direct communications lead or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nhs.uk graphic is available from the NHS Connecting for Health team.
- Link freely to other NHS, DH and other government sites, as well as local authority, academic or non-commercial sites.
- Don't overwhelm users with links.
- Make sure they are all useful and relevant.
- Many sites publish their links policy on the site. Make sure you follow their guidance on linking to their site. If no guidance is given, contact the web manager for permission to link to their site.
Take care with controversial issues and areas where there is significant divergence between the NHS and non-NHS organisations.
- Provide balance and give due weight to the official NHS view.
- You may link to websites which express an alternative argument to the official NHS view. However, if the opposing viewpoint is based on poor evidence, rumour, hearsay, or uncorroborated personal opinion, don't link to sites supporting it.
NHS sites should not directly link to commercial sites, unless you are working with a commercial partner. There are two reasons for this:
- Commercial sites may contain biased or unbalanced content, eg promoting particular products, services or companies over others. You can deny endorsement through a disclaimer but users may still believe the link implies some level of approval.
- It would be unfair to link to one commercial site and not its competitors. A perceived 'NHS endorsement' could give the owning organisation competitive advantage and it is impractical to link to all competing sites.
Bringing users back to NHS sites
Users can become disorientated or lost when exploring links. In the worst case, they might unintentionally leave your site and be unable to return. There are two solutions to this problem:
- Rely on the user's ability to use the 'back' button on their browser to get back to your site. This is an internet convention but it will be frustrating for users who explore links in depth.
- Open the link in a new window. Your site stays visible and accessible but users can end up with multiple open windows, which may crash some PCs.
Using logos as links
There is no restriction on using logos as links to approved sites. Don't give out the NHS or your organisation's logo to any organisation outside the NHS to use as a link without the prior consent of the DH branding team.
Last updated: 29/04/08