Do small navigation bars need skip links?


If there are only a few navigation links in my header, do I still need a link to skip to the main content?


Header navigation bars are a common type of repeated content across webpages. This type of content requires a method so users can bypass the repeated content, per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). If your header contains two or more elements, you should include a skip link.

For users on keyboard navigation, a common method is to use the tab key to advance keyboard focus through the page's interactive elements, such as navigation links. Each element that receives keyboard focus is a "tab stop." When a skip link is in place, people using keyboard navigation have more options for quickly moving to the page’s main content, thus reducing their overall number of tab stops.

Even for a relatively small navigation bar, tab stops quickly add up, especially if you want users to visit multiple pages in your site. A navigation bar may contain only 5 links, but from the keyboard user’s perspective the total number of tab stops increases to 10, 15, 20, and beyond as they move to new pages and must tab past the same 5 links over and over. Unnecessary tab stops can cost significant time and effort, particularly for users with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other mobility disabilities or chronic pain conditions.

By including skip links in appropriate places, you offer better navigation options, reduce potential fatigue and frustration, and improve the user’s overall experience exploring your site.

For a deeper dive into skip links and other keyboard navigation techniques, explore the Keyboard Navigation and Focus Management course from Accessible Web Academy.

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