Artemy Lebedev

§ 83. Secrets of good hypertext

February 18, 2002




If you are reading this section, then you should already know what a hyperlink is (there isn’t any way to get here other than this). People who make websites know what a hyperlink is, too. But few people know how hyperlinks should be placed correctly.



HTML manuals dodge the questions of where exactly links should be placed and how many of them there should be.



There are several ways to define a good hypertext (we will not speak about menus, sections with links and other navigation and information stuff).




Text integrity
If the text becomes incomprehensible once it is beyond the browser window (in a print-out, for instance), then hypertext is no good. You should no way place links to the words “here”, “there” etc.



It’s a big mistake to make the hypertext self-sufficient to the detriment of sense and the text itself. Self-sufficiency should be a property of the text, while hyperlinks only help obtain additional information on a topic.



Hence a simple conclusion: links should be placed so as to prevent the reader from missing on something if they are not there.



Wrong Right
Looking for a lawyer? All needed information is available here. All information you need is available from a lawyer.



In practice, learning anew to write texts in the right way may take you no more than a day. The authors who have grown used to viewing a hyperlink as an integral part of the text and its meaning balk at first, but then get their skills updated and can’t return to the former practice. One should start with composing a humane text, and then proceed to supplementing it with links.




Easy reading
If every second word is underlined, the reader is apt to lose his perception focus. The laws of perception and eye-stopping still hold for the internet. Therefore the fewer links the text has, the better. An ideal solution would be collecting all links at the bottom of a document. The reader has finished with the document content and has to move on.



If a format has technical capacity allowing for using some option, it should not be a reason per se for using it. If the GIF format allows for animating images, think real hard to decide whether animation is needed at all. Flash is ideal for statistical representation of information. You don’t necessarily have to benefit by 16 million colors of the monitor only because it’s technically possible.



Wrong Right
Tasters believe that the organoleptic properties of Turkish soy chocolate make it taste like Crayola pencils. Tasters believe that the organoleptic properties of Turkish soy chocolate make it taste like Crayola pencils.

Additional information:
  • Association of Tasters
  • Shahrazad Chocolate Factory
  • Organoleptic analysis


  • Links in the text are just an option, never a necessity. The left-hand example is hard to handle. The seemingly compact information is no longer a benefit if you are dealing with a text page.




    Value of links
    A link in the text should have so much value as possible. You should place a link only in the event it leads to a resource whose topic was mentioned in the text but wasn’t expanded on.



    OK Just fine
    Ciliate—member of the protozoan phylum Ciliophora, of which there are some 8,000 species. Ciliate—member of the protozoan phylum (a primary division of the animal kingdom) Ciliophora, of which there are some 8,000 species.



    In this example we used the article from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the electronic version of the encyclopedia the left-hand variant is not only relevant, but also required: links lead to other articles. The right-hand example can be used in all cases except in reference editions.




    Comprehensiveness of information
    Getting the reader to train his memory skills is not a good idea. What he does need is prompts. If other materials are mentioned in the text, one should place links to them. But before doing that, think twice whether you should mention these materials at all. A link would be appropriate after the words “as we yesterday wrote in an article…”



    Wrong Right
    We are continuing the survey started last week. As we earlier wrote (“Where does she wash her broom?”, July 5, 1998), while picking up their homes, 45% of housewives wash a broom in the toilet bowl, 7%—in a bucket, while 2% prefer to clean the mess with a dry swab. We are continuing the survey started last week. As we earlier wrote (“Where does she wash her broom?”, July 5, 1998), while picking up their homes, 45% of housewives wash a broom in the toilet bowl, 7%—in a bucket, while 2% prefer to clean the mess with a dry swab.



    In this situation a reader who missed the beginning will be able to catch up. Ideally, a link to a new article should be included in the archive publications list, because nobody can tell whether there have been any other publications on the topic. Using the search option is hardly a gratifying business, since it’s tantamount to having your fortune told.



    For one, cross references between fresh and back issues will help the reader obtain required information, for another—they will give a boost to the archive value.




    Intonation and meaning
    The intonation and the meaning of a hyperlink are closely bound with text integrity. When the text is ready, you can get started with links. This strenuous process is as essential as proofreading, editing, layout and design.



    The usage of hyperlinks is not similar to that of a fluorescent marker, when you highlight a whole paragraph, sit back and enjoy the way it glows.



    A link should be brief, one or two words is just fine. You may attach a link to the name of an article or a book, but if you are having a list of names to sort out, it’s best to find another way of reference, otherwise the reader will get a page where he wouldn’t be able to swing a dead cat without hitting a link.



    The way the link stands out in the text (being color highlighted and underlined) is in itself efficacious enough to emphasize the intonation. Italic or bold font is another way to get a high-pitched intonation. Therefore if you are solving the problem of emphatic intonation, combining various ways is to be avoided. A link in bold font is fine, but specifically with a purpose to make this link notable, not to show that an important word is a link.



    Position of hyperlink What is means
    From February 16 you can post comments on any section of “Mandership”. The link leads to a press release or some other document where sorting by date matters.
    From February 16 you can post comments on any section of “Mandership”. The link to the list of all sections: pick one and post a comment. A link to a particular section is also possible—say “any” as the last one.
    From February 16 you can post comments on any section of “Mandership”. The link to “Mandership”. It may be placed, too, if the reader knows about the sections and is familiar with how comments are posted, and now learns he has the chance to comment on specifically “Mandership”.
    From February 16 you can post comments on any section of “Mandership”. The link leads to a page with a detailed description of comment options, a comment form or some particular comment worth taking a look at.
    From February 16 you can post comments on any section of “Mandership”. And that’s the way it shouldn’t be.



    Now the reader is informed and thereby forearmed.







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