External Link Icon & Disclaimer
[x] Graphics & Images
[x] Required Pages & Elements
HHS Web sites must indicate to users when a link will take them to a Web site that is not sponsored, hosted or managed by one or more federal government entities by using a standard external link icon (see Requirements below).
HHS must disclaim these links with the standard disclaimer. This applies to links to extranets that include non-federal participants.
This applies to links incorporated in:
- Public-facing (external) Web sites
- Intranet sites
- Blogs and other social media
HHS may use the external link icon and disclaimer when linking to other federal government sites. This may be desirable so Agencies can use CSS to automatically detect external links and provide a consistent presentation of these links, while reducing the burden and workload on Web content managers to manually add the icons.
Users tend to assume that links will take them to another page within the same Web site. When this assumption is not true, users may become confused and/or misled. Designers should differentiate between simply moving down a page, e.g., “Topics on this Page” label, and leaving the site altogether.
Users trust content provided by the Federal government. Linking to non-Federal sites with no indication and no disclaimer, users could assume that the referred site or its owners is either owned or endorsed by the Federal government.
Nall, Koyani and Lafond, 2001; Nielsen and Tahir, 2002; Spool, et al., 1997.
Requirements (content & style):
Requirement: All HHS Web sites shall use an icon placed to the right of an external link to designate links to all non-Federal Web sites, including .net, .edu, .org, and .com sites, as well as to state, local and other non-federal .gov Web sites and any extranet which includes non-federal participants.
The approved icon for indicating links to non-Federal sites is which is available in the WCD Image and Icon Library at http://www.hhs.gov/web/tools/library/index.html.
See below for an example of the icon in a list of external links:
An enlarged version of the icon appears below with a list of usage requirements.
This icon was selected for various reasons, including:
- This icon is a widely used Web convention that appears on numerous Web sites, including Wikipedia. As a Web convention, the use of this icon on HHS Web sites will be more widely recognized than the use of a non-traditional icon.
- This icon is independent of any language and does not require translation into other languages for Web sites that include numerous foreign languages.
- This icon is a pictograph which is consistent with accepted plain language best practices for conveying information to less literate audiences.
- This icon is compact and will not impede content presentation in a particular Web site’s design.
Recommended Guideline (content & style):
Guideline: HHS Web sites may also choose to display the domain name to designate an external link. When the domain name is included it shall appear to the right of the external link icon or directly below the external link (examples provided below).
Rationale: In most instances, it is either impractical or undesirable to display the entire URL of an external link. Since many URLs are extremely long or contain odd characters, HHS does not recommend including the entire URL of an external link on a Web page. However, simply including the domain URL (as text in parentheses) can help to quickly communicate to users that the link is an external link and provide additional context about the source of the content. This additional information not only helps to reinforce and effectively communicate external links, it also provides additional information that can help users better understand the destination of an external link.
This approach is especially useful for long lists of links and ‘related links’ on a Web site. While a useful technique, this format may not be practical for all external links on a Web site and is an optional guideline recommended by HHS.
See below for an example of the icon and the domain name (to the right of each external link):
See below for an example of the icon and the domain name (below each external link):
See below for an example of a list of external links from both federal Web sites and non-federal Web sites.
Standard External Links Disclaimers:
Standard Web site & Blog (English language):
- This graphic notice () means that you are leaving an HHS Web site.
- This external link provides additional information that is consistent with the intended purpose of federal site.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cannot attest to the accuracy of a non-federal site.
- Linking to a non-federal site does not constitute an endorsement by HHS or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the site.
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Note: For Spanish-language and other foreign language Web sites, this disclaimer should be translated into the appropriate language.
Top of Page
Indicate Internal vs. external links (V2, 5:8, p. 42)
Identify and disclaim links to non-federal government Web sites.