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All links are not created equal

December 04, 2003 | View Comments (6) | too hard

We have already spoken about making links distinctive on websites, but another issue arises after that and this is something we are very guilty of ourselves. Many times while surfing the web we will find a link to some information that we find very relevant only to discover that the link is to a .pdf file. We like .pdf's, but would prefer to download them and read them in our own application, not our web browser. Other links may point to Word documents and Powerpoint presentations. A simple solution is to add a small icon after the link to let the user know what type of link it is. Many sites already do this with external links such as web-graphics. rxfastfind.com

You may consider this a waste of time, but think about if there has ever been a time that you clicked on a link and your computer all but froze because it was processing a monster PDF. It has happened to us and when that happens we usually get so frustrated that we do not return to the site. We want people returning to our sites.

Another link issue has to do with links to email addresses. We have been on the web for a while, yet we still click on email links expecting another page to come up. Instead we are greeted by Outlook. Maybe the email link can link to a page with a contact form on it where the To: field is already filled out. This would be more helpful and intuitive to users of the site.

Links are just one of the many issues that make the web difficult, but if done correctly could make the web the useful resource it was meant to be.

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Comments

Well then what would you guys say to not underlining the the headlines you use on the elementary homepage?

Posted by: mikeyz at December 4, 2003 09:43 PM

I figured someone would point that out. The purpose for not underlining the headlines is because if the entry has extended paragraphs then a "Continue reading" link will appear under the entry. Meaning when the user is done reading the entry they can read the next line and click the link without having to move their eyes back up. Trivial yes we know.

The other scenario is that the reader wishes to go directly to the comments of an entry. In this case a link is provided that directly takes them to the comments.

Once readers are aware of the option that they can click the headlines to read the whole entry, they will more than likely do so. However, we see these "hidden" links as more of an advanced feature, if you wish to call it that. It adds to the site without taking the usability out of things.

Hmmm, bet you never thought you would heere someone give such a detailed explanation concerning links on their own blog. I guess we are a bit paranoid.

Posted by: The Scholar at December 4, 2003 09:48 PM

Um. Seems like a perfect use of the :before statement and an attribute selector to look for ".JPG", ".PDF", or the like and to insert a graphic before the link specifying the type of media linked to.

Likewise, similar CSS goodness could be used to differentiate between site links and off-site links.

Posted by: Silus Grok at December 5, 2003 02:03 AM

This is something we often think about because it really is annoying to click a link and have a PDF drain your resources or an RTF asking you if you want to save or open it, bearing in mind that some files can destroy you computer.

Some people put additional info into the title attribute of links like: title="PDF, 32kb". This is useful as it caters for the non visual users too (if their technology supports it). Using CSS to place an icon isn't overly accessible as it relies on users having CSS and good eyes.

Posted by: Guy Carberry at December 5, 2003 07:17 AM

CSS and Title attributes are not mutually exclusive... a prudent combination of the two would probably be a good use of the techonology.

Posted by: Silus Grok at December 5, 2003 10:12 PM

Thanks for this post. You've articulated some of my recent concerns with work related designs done by other people. I'm working on a new site for my department and I thought a contact form would be a better way to handle email addresses. It's nice to know I was on the right track! :)

Posted by: Mariann at December 6, 2003 12:23 PM

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