5.3: Hyperlinks and the interface
The basic element of the reader interface is the hyperlink.
- Hyperlinks are the key difference between the narrative writing you have been taught since grade school and writing for the Web.
- Hyperlinks come in two forms:
- Standing navigational tools, a key part of the user interface.
- Links within copy, used to add depth and flexibility to the text.
Four keys to good links
(and good Web pages)
- Quality saying true things
- Quantity saying neither too much nor too little
- Relevance saying things that relate to the topic at hand
- Clarity saying things clearly and well
Guide to writing hyperlinks
- Remember reader goals
- Readers typically come to a site with a goal in mind.
- Each link and click should meet their expectations and lead them toward their goal.
- Key navigation links should appear first, in case the reader wants to get to another area in the site.
- Use common visual elements to increase usability.
Remember that the goals of your site:
- reflect reader needs
- effectively communicate the main message
Get to the point
Avoid unnecessary intros or splash pages:
- Animations or slow-loading splash pages delay the users access to information they seek.
- If you use a splash page, do not have a return link to it.
- Instead take the user to the real home page.
Avoid these bad links
Some of these examples are over the top.
- False Twin Links
- Symptom: Two links with similar wording, so that it seems as if they would lead to the same thing but they don't.
- Reader result: No click I think I've already been there.
- Example: Rod C. Davis. Every button says “learn more.”
- Non-Identical Twin Links
- Symptom: Two links with very different wording, so that it seems as if they would lead to two different things. Instead, they go to exactly the same thing.
- Reader result: Click Hey! I've already been here!
- Example: Richards Brothers Seafoods. What is the difference between a price list and a product list?
- Mystery Link
- Symptom: Obscure words (often just one word) or a cryptic image so th user doesnt know what to expect.
- Reader result: No click Huh? Why should I go there?
- Example: Gerald W. Sosbee vs. the FBI. The links give you no clue about where they take you. Good examples of non-identical twin links, too.
- Symptom: Text or an image that raises a false expectation or fails to indicate that something out of the ordinary will result, such as a PDF or Word document downloading where an HTML page was expected.
- User result: Click No! I didn't WANT to download a file!
- Example: Dreams of the Great Earth Changes. You never know what will happen when you click on a link here.
Advice for writing links
- Give the reader choices: Offer more than one link on each page.
- Differ the wording of phrases you use to link to different pages. For example, Who We Are and About Us are likely to be seen as going to the same page.
- If you must link to the same thing more than once on a single page, use the same or very similar text, or the same graphic for each of the links.
- Unless you are creating a comprehensive directory, do not offer users a lot of similar options; be selective. Do the editors job and choose the best, then eliminate the rest.
- Do not hide or bury links to pages that many users will want to access. Anticipate the users goals and desires, and prioritize.
- Avoid irrelevant, extraneous, or unnecessary links. They burden users and make your site seem less useful.
- Do not send users away from your site without a good reason.
- The page you send them to should be relevant and excellent, and not like anything you offer on your own site.
- Write the link text to give a reasonable expectation of what the link will deliver.
- Never use the phrase click here; it does not tell users anything.