Buttons and Links

Steps specific to testing button and link controls with keyboard alone.


These steps assume that the following tests have been completed and that issues found have been resolved:

To help identify and distinguish between buttons and links, read Button vs Link in the knowledge section below.


For each keyboard reachable button and link control that you have identified on the page, perform the following steps:

  1. Move keyboard focus by pressing TAB or SHIFT+TAB until you reach the control

  2. Activate the control with the ENTER key

  3. If the control doesn't work, create an issue

    1. see Enter doesn't activate button/link below

For buttons only, perform the following additional steps:

  1. Move keyboard focus by pressing TAB or SHIFT+TAB until you reach the button

  2. Activate the button with the SPACE key

  3. If the button doesn't work, create an issue

    1. see Space doesn't activate button below

Creating Issues

Make sure you provide enough information to identify each button and link with issues.

Your team may wish to list all failures of this check in one issue.

  • Description: Enter doesn't activate button/link

  • Priority:

    • Link: P1

    • Button: P1 if SPACE key also doesn't work (see below)

    • Button: P2 if SPACE key does work

  • Label or Tag: #a11y211

Space doesn't activate button

  • Description: Space doesn't activate button

  • Priority: P3

  • Label or Tag: #a11y211


Whether something is a button or a link is defined by the function it performs; not by its visual appearance.


  • cause a full page load

  • have options similar to the following in their context menu:

    • Open link in new tab

    • Open link in new window

    • Save link as...

    • Copy link address

    • etc.

  • programmatically convey a "visited" state


  • perform actions on the page

  • don't have link-specific options in their context menu

  • don't convey a "visited" state

  • can cause a page load (e.g. form submit button)


Author(s): Ian McBurnie & Luis Garcia

Last Updated: 2021 January 27th

Last updated