Tutorial 26: The Care and Feeding of Hyperlinks, Part II - HTML with Style | 3
Almost all Web sites around today wish to keep a reader's attention, whether for profit or other purposes. To this end, it has become common practice for many Web designers to deprive the user of links, or at least of links to resources that are not part of their sites.
I can understand this desire fully; after all, I do make a living off this Web site and I'd always rather have you reading my stuff than reading something else. But I still think it's a good idea to trust in the content to bring you to this site and keep you here than it is to keep you trapped until you get annoyed and look elsewhere for the links that I could have provided myself.
People who don't agree with me will do several things that ultimately hurt the user. First of all, they will omit useful links because they're afraid that people will follow them, find the information interesting and never come back to their sites. However, if you're serious about what you're doing, you should be more worried about how valuable your content is to your readers, and adding links to useful resources can only add to the usefulness.
On the flip side, many developers will insert links of only minor relevance all over their documents, simply because they point to resources that they also want visited. They will usually fail to describe the link's destination adequately, sending unwary users clicking away to their other pages, usually causing them to quickly resort to their browser's "Back" button, or worse, to another site altogether. For mostly the same reasons, this is just as bad an idea as omitting useful links.
And finally, the most heinous crime in hyperlinking is explicitly causing a hyperlink to display the destination in a new browser window. This can be done using the TARGET attribute in HTML or various techniques that involve client-side scripting. This is usually done to avoid users wandering off to other parts of the Web by following a link and never coming back to your site. What you're ignoring is the fact that you're annoying a lot of people by opening up windows without their consent. All GUI-based browsers have the option to display link tails in new windows, and users will use this function if they want it. All browsers offer a "history" function that will allow users to come back to your page after they've read up on your link. Overall, it's best not to second-guess your users by popping up windows left, right and center.
All of the above notwithstanding, wishing to keep your readers reading is, as I said, a valid goal. A little further down, I'll give you a way to do this without annoying your users or reducing the value of your pages to them.
Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: October 04, 2000
Revised: October 4, 2000