5.3: Hyperlinks and the interface

Large, disorganized navigation buttons do not serve the reader or you. This site, Historian of the Future, was a finalist for the 2009 title of suckiest Web page.

The basic element of the reader interface is the hyperlink.

Four keys to good links
(and good Web pages)

Guide to writing hyperlinks

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

Avoid these bad links

Some of these examples are over the top.

  1. 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.”
  2. 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?
  3. Mystery Link
    • Symptom: Obscure words (often just one word) or a cryptic image so th user doesn’t 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.
  4. Trick Link
    • 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

  1. Give the reader choices: Offer more than one link on each page.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Unless you are creating a comprehensive directory, do not offer users a lot of similar options; be selective. Do the editor’s job and choose the best, then eliminate the rest.
  5. Do not hide or “bury” links to pages that many users will want to access. Anticipate the users’ goals and desires, and prioritize.
  6. Avoid irrelevant, extraneous, or unnecessary links. They burden users and make your site seem less useful.
  7. 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.
  8. Never use the phrase “click here”; it does not tell users anything.