Good Linking Practices

Two basic types of links are used in websites: navigational links connect pages within a site and the classic hypertext links offer parenthetical material, footnotes, digressions, or parallel themes that the author believes will enrich the main content of the page. Although navigational links can cause problems in site design, more disruptive is the overuse or poor placement of hypertext links.

Hypertext links pose two fundamental design problems. They disrupt the flow of content in your site by inviting the reader to leave your site. They can also radically alter the context of information by dumping the reader into unfamiliar territory without preamble or explanation.

The primary design strategy in thoughtful hypertext is to use links to reinforce your message, not to distract readers or send them off chasing a minor footnote in some other website. Most links in a website should point to other resources within your site, pages that share the same graphic design, navigational controls, and overall content theme.

Whenever possible, integrate related visuals or text materials into your site so that readers do not have the sense that you have dumped them outside your site’s framework. If you must send your reader away, make sure the material around the link makes it clear that the reader will be leaving your website and entering another site by following the link.

Provide a description of the linked site along with the link so users understand the relevance of the linked material.

Maintain context

The key to good hypertext linking is to maintain context, so that the reader stays within the narrative flow and design environment of your site. If you place a simple link on your page, these plain links will work within a single browser window — your content will disappear and the linked page will fill the window. If you use this kind of link to point away from your site, you will probably lose your readers.

Placing links

Links are a distraction. It is pointless to write a paragraph and then fill it with invitations to your reader to go elsewhere. Minimize the disruptive quality of links by managing their placement on the page. Most links do not belong in the middle of the page — they won’t be important enough to justify the potential distractions they pose. Group all minor, illustrative, parenthetic, or footnote links at the bottom of the document where they are available but not distracting.

If you do place links in the body of your text, pay close attention to your language. Never construct a sentence around a link phrase, such as “click here for more information.” Write the sentence as you normally would, and place the link anchor on the word or words that best describe the additional content you are linking to.

  • Poor: “Click here” for more information on placinglinks within your text.
  • Better: Avoid problems with web links by managing their placement withinthe context of your document.

Source: Web Style Guide

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