Q: I am looking for some clarification on best practice for “back to top” links: When should they be used and how? Jakob Nielsen is against them, but this is not a universally held view. They can be very useful for FAQs. What do you think?
It’s very rare that we’d say a particular solution is all good or all bad. In a NN/g anchor links, Nielsen writes:
"On the Web, users have a clear mental model for a hypertext link: it should bring up a new page. Within-page links violate this model and thus cause confusion."
But a US government: anchor links in which anchor links were used at the top of the page found the following:
"On a long page with a large amount of information, having the content headings as links at the top of the page allows users to click to information directly, reducing scrolling and scanning. In our usability tests, users often got frustrated when they had to scroll or scan a lot to find information. Also important, these anchor links let users grasp immediately what information the page contains."
Based on our own research, anchor links, including “back to top” links, are often fine, where the following conditions exist:
- The page is long.
- There are anchor links at the top of the page to give users some idea of all the content available on the page.
- The page is broken into logical sections and groups for easy scanning.
- The anchor links at the top of the page and within the page are named appropriately.
Certain populations, such as the elderly or novice Web users, may have more issues with anchor links. If you have any doubts about whether this is the right solution for your users, test it and see!