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External Link Icons

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From: John E. Brandt
Date: Sep 27, 2007 3:50PM


I am not sure I have seen this issue discussed here, but perhaps it has and
someone can send me to an archive or other location.

In any case, what is the consensus of opinion on the use of, what I am
calling, External Link Icons? These are those tiny icons placed next to a
link on a website when the link goes to a URL that is "outside" of the
current web.

I noticed that WebAIM had used them extensively on many of their web pages
in the past, but seems to have scaled back their use. Here are some links
where the icons are used:

http://www.webaim.org/articles/process/evaluate.php
http://alastairc.ac/2007/08/comparing-tagged-pdfs-from-office-and-acrobat/

There was also a nice explanation on this page
http://www.webaim.org/techniques/hypertext/hypertext_links.php about some of
the background on using icons of various sorts. It seems that the current
version of JAWS alerts users to the fact that the link is to an external
site, but some older AT may not.

What is the current thinking on the use of this technique? I wouldn't mind
hearing both sides. And do people know of places where the use of these
icons are required by law/policy?


John E. Brandt
Augusta, Maine USA
www.jebswebs.com