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Creating hyperlinks

Hyperlinks are really important — they are what makes the Web a web. This article shows the syntax required to make a link, and discusses link best practices.

What is a hyperlink?

Hyperlinks are one of the most exciting innovations the Web has to offer. Well, they've been a feature of the Web since the very beginning, but they are what makes the Web a Web — they allow us to link our documents to any other document (or other resource) we want to, we can also link to specific parts of documents, and we can make apps available at a simple web address (contrast this to native apps, which have to be installed and all that business.) Just about any web content can be converted to a link, so that when clicked (or otherwise activated) it will make the web browser go to another web address (URL).

The BBC homepage, for example, contains a large number of links to point to not only multiple news stories, but also different areas of the site (navigation functionality), login/registration pages (user tools) and more.

Anatomy of a link

A basic link is created by wrapping the text (or other content, see Block level links) you want to turn into a link inside an <a> element, and giving it an href attribute (also known as a Hypertext Reference , or target) that will contain the web address you want the link to point to.

I'm creating a link to
<a href="">the Mozilla homepage</a>.

I'm creating a link tothe Mozilla homepage.

Adding supporting information with the title attribute

Another attribute you may want to add to your links is title; this is intended to contain supplementary useful information about the link, such as what kind of information the page contains, or things to be aware of. For example:

I'm creating a link to
title="The best place to find more information about Mozilla's
mission and how to contribute"
>the Mozilla homepage</a

This gives us the following result (the title will come up as a tooltip when the link is hovered over):

I'm creating a link tothe Mozilla homepage.

As mentioned before, you can turn just about any content into a link, even block level elements. If you had an image you wanted to turn into a link, you could just put the image between tags.

<a href="">
alt="mozilla logo that links to the mozilla homepage"

It is possible to create links or buttons that, when clicked, open a new outgoing email message rather than linking to a resource or page. This is done using the <a> element and the mailto: URL scheme.

In its most basic and commonly used form, a mailto: link simply indicates the email address of the intended recipient. For example:

<a href="">Send email to nowhere</a> This results in a
link that looks like this: Send email to nowhere.

In fact, the email address is even optional. If you leave it out (that is, your href is simply "mailto:"), a new outgoing email window will be opened by the user's mail client that has no destination address specified yet. This is often useful as "Share" links that users can click to send an email to an address of their choosing.

Specifying details

In addition to the email address, you can provide other information. In fact, any standard mail header fields can be added to the mailto URL you provide. The most commonly used of these are "subject", "cc", and "body" (which is not a true header field, but allows you to specify a short content message for the new email). Each field and its value is specified as a query term.

Here's an example that includes a cc, bcc, subject and body:

Send mail with cc, bcc, subject and body

When linking to a specific location within your site or application you can use an absolute link. When using an absolute link you provide the entire path to the page.


<a href="/marketing/products/promotional/cups">Cups</a>

If we were making a link from the cups page to a page that was a sibling we could use a relative link.


<a href="./mugs">Mugs</a>

The ./ at the beginning of the link means from the current path and then we look for a page mugs

If we were on the cups page and wanted to go back to the promotional page we could use another form of relative link.


<a href="..">Promotional</a>

In this case the .. means to go up one level. Since we are currently at /marketing/products/promotional/cups we would end up at /marketing/products/promotional

By using absolute and relative links we can navigate the structure of our page. Absolute links help us link to specific locations on our site by resetting us back to the root of the site. Relative links help us avoid having to repeatedly reference all the way back to the root which helps us move entire sections of our site without breaking links.

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