Tutorial 26: The Care and Feeding of Hyperlinks, Part II - HTML with Style | WebReference

Tutorial 26: The Care and Feeding of Hyperlinks, Part II - HTML with Style

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Tutorial 26: The Care and Feeding of Hyperlinks, Part II

What are links for?

There are several issues you have to consider when populating your documents with informational hyperlinks. The first issue is when to use a link, and when not to. The second issue is where to place the link, or more specifically the hyperlink head. The third issue is what to link to, or where to point the hyperlink tail.

Before we go about laying down the rules for deciding on these issues, we have to agree on what purpose hyperlinks are supposed to serve. Well, the first and foremost purpose of a hyperlink is to provide a useful function to the user.

This might seem obvious to many of you, but it is a point often forgotten. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but it is my firm belief that it is always, without exception, in your best interest to create a Web site that is the most useful to your audience, one that allows them as much freedom and flexibility as possible. Many Web developers believe that constricting a user and forcing him down a certain path is a better approach to achieve their goals, but it is my firm belief that this will ultimately be detrimental to your Web site as users will be disgruntled by the decreased usability and leave your site in droves.

The reason I bring this point up at this moment is that there is an overwhelming trend to treat hyperlinks as a way to subconsciously steer users down a certain path while they are browsing the Web. The methods of doing this will be discussed shortly, but I would like to say that this is almost always a bad idea. When you insert a hyperlink into a document, it should always be in the hopes that it gives the reader more choice, not less.

Naturally, you're welcome to disagree with me and go ahead with whatever design methodology you consider most appropriate, but if you want to take my advice, trusting in the intelligence and abilities of your audience is the best way to get them visiting your site again and again. The amount of visits you will gain by pushing your readers around is much smaller than the amount of faithful visitors you will gain if you give the audience what it wants most: information, and easy ways to find it.

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URL: http://www.webreference.com/html/tutorial26/1.html

Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: October 04, 2000
Revised: October 4, 2000